OWNER OF RECENTLY OPENED FOUNDER FOODS IN KLOOF, ROXANNE MC LEAN HAS COMBINED HER LOVE FOR HEALTHY EATING AND BUSINESS INTO A VENTURE THAT IS GOOD FOR HER, OUR COMMUNITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, WRITES KATIA BENEDETTI
Roxanne was born in the Eastern Cape into an extended family of farmers, and is at her happiest when wearing a pair of hiking or farm boots and spending time outdoors. It seems counterintuitive that she should be a chartered management accountant by profession; but it is just this mix of business savvy and her love for healthy food and living that has led her to opening Founder Foods – a store with one of the widest ranges of whole foods in the greater Durban area.
Following a year in Unilever’s finance department, Roxanne moved into the role of Food Ingredients Buying Manager at the large consumer goods company. There she worked with farmers, mills, processors and food manufacturers, understanding their businesses and coming to grips with the complexities of our South African food production system.
“I’m very passionate about the fact that our food system is too complicated – you’re looking at about 12 to 20 steps from farm to fork on many products. Not only does this require products to be processed and altered to facilitate an extended shelf life, but in every step increasing resources are consumed, creating challenges for consumers, companies and farmers. This complicated system is largely a result of our own consumer behaviour and the types of foods that have become conveniently accessible,” she explains.
South Africa’s food system also means that small producers are cut out. “Because our processors are large, they have to rely on the big commercial farmers for the volume and consistent quality they require,” she says. As a result, smaller producers simply do not have a market; a missed opportunity in a country that so sorely requires employment. “If we go simpler and source more directly, we get a healthier product, and also have more of an opportunity to introduce smaller farmers into the food chain.” It was against this backdrop of food quality and environmental and economic sustainability that the process of creating Founder Foods was set into motion.
At home, Roxanne and her husband, Cameron, set out on a journey to introduce more whole foods into their diet. Not only did this benefit their health, but they also quite accidently ended up without needing a bin. “It wasn’t intentional. I was trying to live more naturally and bring less into the home, and through that process we ended up producing near zero waste. It was a two-year journey and when we started, we didn’t realise what the result would be.”
When Roxanne started giving talks at school about whole foods and her journey towards a zero-waste lifestyle, she discovered that people struggled to get hold of ingredients like teff, quinoa and arrowroot powder. This then led to the setting up of the store. By leveraging her network of supplier and producer contacts, she is now making whole foods widely accessible to customers in the Upper Highway area.
Her plans for the future? “I would love to see a Founder Foods at the centre of the food culture in every community, to nurture our health, our families, our communities and our environment. Whole foods are the key to doing that because they affect everything from the economy, right down to the way we behave every day. Whole foods are more than just food; they are the key to transforming the world.”
ROXANNE’S FAVE RECIPES
FOR DETAILED RECIPES, SEE WWW.FOUNDERFOODS.CO.ZA
Sorghum Butternut Salad | Roasted butternut and feta salad with toasted pumpkin seeds, parsley and raisins. Roxanne adds two cups of sorghum, boiled until tender, mixed with ground coriander, ground cumin and cinnamon. Then toss salad with a home- made dressing using apple cider vinegar, orange juice, honey and crushed garlic.
Blueberry & Banana Amaranth Porridge | Roxanne mixes amaranth, milk, water and cinnamon – bringing it to the boil and letting it simmer to create a thick and creamy porridge. Drizzle with honey and top the porridge with sliced bananas, blueberries, pecans and coconut chips.
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