BEIRUT: Lebanon has no shortage when it comes to initiatives that support local organic foods and handmade products, from the ever-growing Souk El Tayib to "mobile" food culinary exhibitions like Souk El Akel, the country always surprises us with something new.
A recent addition to the above is the “Souk Aal Souk” farmer’s market, which started out as a monthly initiative five years ago by Environmental and Sustainable Development Unit at Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the American University of Beirut in collaboration with the Food Heritage Foundation at AUB. Soon after, it became a joint initiative with the AUB Neighborhood Initiative, which sought to expand Souk Aal Souk outside the university campus and into the neighboring areas.
The fifth outdoor event took place on Tuesday, July 16, at the center of the Jeanne D’arc Street in Hamra, next to the campus, where farmers and craftsmen displayed their products.
“By moving the event out of campus and into the neighborhood, we are hoping to create a vibrant community that would participate in the event and socialize with the producers,” Hayat Gebara, coordinator of the Neighborhood Initiative at AUB, told Annahar.
The event had 18 tents and 30 producers lined up with all sorts of food, recycled glass (supplied by Lebanon’s leading recycling expert Ziad Abi Chaker), handmade accessories and books.
“It’s not about the money, it’s never about the money,” Mona El Hallak, director of the Neighborhood Initiative, told Annahar. “We want people to get in touch with their culture and to get to know the producers behind all these goods. We want to create a community,” she added.
The producers displayed a variety of goods ranging from nuts to jams, as well as ready-made foods such as “sage” and veggie juices. In fact, one of the largest food suppliers in the event was Disco soup, a joint collaboration between four NGOs: FoodBlessed, Recycle Lebanon, makesense and Too Good To Waste.
The initiative aims to raise awareness about food waste in Lebanon by collecting edible vegetable leftovers from supermarkets and “Souk el Khodra” and pressing them into juices that are served on the spot.
“We started in November 2018, and we’ve since organized more than eight events. We’ve also saved more than 300 kg of fruit and vegetables,” Philippe Rahbé, one of the Disco Soup founders, said. “By 2020, we plan to double this initiative and do two events per month. That way we can have more impact and save more leftovers,” he added.
Disco Soup was not the only good-for-a-cause initiative participating in the event; just around the corner, there was a tent for Shatila Studio, a social enterprise run by a 100 Syrian and Palestinian refugee women who create handmade fashion.
Represented by volunteer Fatima Khalifa, the women were displaying their items in Souk Aal Souk in hopes of gaining more exposure for their cause. “The women produce between 600 and 1000 items monthly,” said Khalifa.
One thing that united all producers was a passion for their craft. One producer, Maroun Antably, has been making handmade accessories for 35 years. “It’s my craft and my passion, and it's also my source of income,” he said.
Meanwhile, housewife Minerva Akl has been producing “mouneh” (pantry) from the apples and berries that she grows in her land in Akoura. She produces fresh juices, apple and berry jams, apple vinegar, apple crackers, dried berries, and chocolate-dipped fruit.
She has been operating daily for the past five years. “We produce 25 bags of chips, 25 bags of crackers, 10 bags of dried berries and 75 pieces of rolls daily. I sell them at exhibitions like Souk Aal Souk,” she told Annahar.
The event started early in the morning and stretched out till evening.
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