Eating healthily is a challenge for plenty of people. For example, some argue that a healthy diet is expensive to maintain. But, one Khayelitsha vegetarian has proven that greener food pastures can be found right in your backyard garden. At just twenty six Lufefe Nomjana has turned the healthy idea of baking his own bread using home-grown spinach, into a business.

Lufefe started Espinaca (‘spinach’ in Spanish) Innovations in 2012. It is a bakery he founded by using a neighbour’s oven.

“After twenty-three years of living an unhealthy lifestyle in an unhealthy environment, I realised that I have to first change my own lifestyle to a better one, in order to change my environment,” says ‘Popeye Spinach’, as he is affectionately known.

“Everything around me was unhealthy: the food people ate, drugs, gangsterism, even the water they drank.”

With that realisation Lufefe then, like his deliciously-baked goods, rose to the occasion and founded his business.

“I would use my neighbour’s kitchen early in the morning – before 6 a.m. – and again at night. First I baked five mini loaves and started doing tastings at the KTC Clinic and Spar. After seeing a good response, I started selling my bread.”

But how to grow the business, when he had no capital or business skills? Pick ‘n Pay came to his rescue and offered him a stove and a short course in cooking and baking. Lufefe is a 2012 graduate of the Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development, funded by the retail giant. Its objective is to provide entrepreneurship education to passionate youth.

Since then his business has grown like regularly-watered spinach.

“It is now the change-making agent in distributing nutritious food to pre-schools, orphanages, and to many individuals around my community,” says the young entrepreneur and health fundi.

Currently, he charges a mere R14 for the spinach-infused bread but offers a discount to children and disabled people. Gourmet muffins and scrumptious rusks are also the menu.

Lufefe has supplied a few branches of big names such as the local Pick ‘n Pay and Spar but he has even a bigger vision for his business.

“After a year we will be supplying the big retail stores – especially the local franchises – with our healthy, fresh products.”

It has not been easy to reach this point. Just like any growing plant, his business once experienced a dry season where its metaphoric ‘leaves’ just withered.

“The challenge was transportation, as I didn’t have my own delivery van. Myself, and others who assist me, each walked about twenty-five kilometres a day to do deliveries.”

Lufefe turned the situation around through a donation from an NGO – Espinaca now uses the cheap transport provided by bicycles to deliver health to his community at large. The donor, the Bicycling Empowerment Network (BEN), was established to promote the use of bicycles to address poverty and transport issues.

“Purchasing a vehicle wouldn’t be efficient or economically practical for this young business,” Lufefe says. Fuel is very expensive and so is maintaining a vehicle.

The fitness and non-polluting benefits of bicycles also represent the healthy-lifestyle seed he has been trying to plant in people’s minds. “I believe in making a change that will have an impact on the health and development of the world at large. This is how I will make a positive difference. These bicycles make our work easier and more efficiently distribute the ‘Green Solution’ to the people.”

“We will also receive bicycle training, such as how to follow safety procedures,” says Lufefe. “Myself and my team are beyond excitement that we finally have a delivery system set up! And thanks to BEN for providing us with the specially-designed bicycles,” he says.

In June 2014 Lufefe officially opened his new business premises, which is a recycled shipping container that is located in a yard. It currently has a monthly turnover of R20 000 and supplies over 200 clients. It sells approximately fifty loaves of healthy bread a day.

“The company will try expanding into another township in the coming months, using the bakery in Khayelitsha as the baking hub.”

Espinaca stands out from dozens of stalls selling fat- and carbohydrate-heavy fried chicken and pap along Spine Road, because it sells homemade vegetarian goods.

Espinaca Innovations is like a vegetable that is surrounded by weeds, but it still grows healthily. Its innovative founder declares that ultimately he has the bigger aim of changing peoples’ perceptions about food and the environment.

“What you eat in private, is what you wear in public.” (Anonymous)

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