Eat Local

The importance of Mouneh provisioning in Lebanon

Contributing writer: Camille CESBRON, Food Anthropologist

As we are all concentrating on essentials, food seems to recall an even greater place in our life. In Lebanon, Mouneh holds a central position in our diet but also in our hearts: it’s all about celebrating traditions and preserve nature’s goodness in a jar. In this article, we’re looking into the attachment to Mouneh products and how complex food acquisitions actually are to make Mouneh.

In her recently published book « Food in Cuba », Hanna Garth argues that Cuban, from all social background spend tremendous energy provisioning ingredients that reflect their cultural and national identities and they maintain an “intensely emotional” connection to their meals (Garth, H. 2020). This can be applied to Mouneh here: Lebanese would go great length to get Mouneh products or to find the right ingredients to make it and won’t settle for the most accessible items.

Farmers markets attract youth who are seeking a taste of home

In recent interviews I conducted with middle class Beirutis, there was a clear reluctance to supermarket’s fresh products: they were often labelled as expensive, tasteless, full of pesticides and generally unsuitable for Mouneh. This behaviour can be interpreted as a “refusal to lower their standards for food they consume” (Garth, H. 2020) and a form of care towards the family members. Whilst the younger generation I interviewed satisfies itself with local produce from Beirut farmer’s markets, the older Beirutis often get their Mouneh produce from the producers in Bekaa or in Jabal, translating a desire to “maintain the connection between locality and food, reaching back to imagined, historic, and traditional culinary practices” (Garth, H. 2020), playing on intimate nostalgia to justify the demand to specific foods. Getting good quality fresh food is essential in the process of Mouneh production, but what is less valued and often overlooked in social sciences is the fact that foraging the right food requires time and knowledge. What knowledge are we talking about and how is it valued by individuals? We identify two types of acquisitions: first, already made Mouneh such as Kishk or sundried items and second fresh produces (herbs, vegetables, fruits) that eventually get transformed into Mouneh. By buying from the producers in bulk, the consumer makes sure to get the best quality for the best prices.

“Therefore, family food systems are built around the reliance on a network of people and not just places”

This forager knowledge is not given:  it’s a complex patchwork of different experiences. It’s knowing what food tastes right and when it’s the best time to buy it. It’s also often an intricate network of producers, friends and side road stalls that each individual or family has created over the years. Therefore, family food systems are built around the reliance on a network of people and not just places.

So how do we explain such close ties between city dwellers and rural producers/retailers in Lebanon? First, the proximity to the mountain and the Bekaa makes the rural produce easily accessible from Beirut, most places are less than 2 hours-drive from the city. Second, many Beirutis are originally from outside Beirut, some will visit their family on weekends or for the holidays in the countryside, creating an opportunity for the city dwellers to acquire food. These two factors produce a unique continuity between the rural and the urban blurring the lines on the distinction of these two concepts.

It’s now clear that accessibility is not the only criteria when it comes to get food, quality and prices are two important factors that push people to create complex network of suppliers. Therefore, instead of often thinking in terms of food security, we need to consider that “the framework of adequacy can account for what is necessary beyond basic nutrition, prompting us to ask not whether a food system sustains life, but whether it sustains a particular kind of living” (Garth, H. 2020). Making Mouneh creates a strong sense of attachment because it is ultimately linked to Lebanese identity and traditions. Does our food system sustain Mouneh production? Or is it the other way round? The questions around food acquisitions are getting more attention when imports prices have gone up by 50% since 2019 and the Covid-19 situation, accentuated with the already critical economic situation in the country, hits household incomes very hard. Just last week the Agriculture PM Abbas Mortada has called the Lebanese to go work the land acknowledging the vital role of the agricultural sector in the country’s economy, more than ever. Lebanon is a tertiary economy and only 1% of the yearly budget is allocated to the agricultural sector. How these two major crises are going to change our food system? Without a strong agriculture, a system can collapse in the blink of an eye. We’ve got now the opportunity to build a strong food system that revolves around local production and can sustain our traditional food habits, strengthen the producers/ consumer networks and reduce our dependence on foreign imports.


Garth H. (2020) Food in Cuba: The Pursuit of a Decent Meal. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

MoA, 2014. Ministry of Agriculture Strategy 2015-2019


Distribution of Mouneh parcels in the West Bekaa

The unfolding economic crisis during the Covid-19 lockdown is keeping the most vulnerable Lebanese communities under unbearable pressure of finding their daily sustenance. Aiming to support the local communities at the times of hardship, Mouneh parcels have been assembled under Ardi Ardak initiative, through a collaborative work between FHF, ESDU and LLWB.

The first batch of Mouneh parcels were distributed on March 30th, 2020 to 40 families in need including old people who cannot leave their homes to get their food. The parcels contained basic food items like rice, sugar, pulses, bulgur, jams and oil with some products locally procured from cooperatives and small scale producers.

This first distribution was made possible due to generous donations of people who want to make a positive change in the society particularly during the hard times the country is going through.

Donate Now!…/7…/ardiardakfoodsecurityinitiative

Your contribution will save lives!


“Ardi Ardak” – National Food Security Initiative

In light of the current socio-economic crisis, the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU) at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences (FAFS) at AUB – in partnership with the Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB), the Food Heritage Foundation and Ziko House, launched the Ardi Ardak Initiative during a workshop that was held in AUB on February 28, 2020.

Ardi Ardak works on offering small-scale producers access to knowledge, resources and marketing channels, offering urban consumers access to local healthy produce, and promoting sustainable eco-friendly agricultural practices and innovative food processing linking innovation to traditional authentic production. Ardi Ardak approach is based on community supported initiatives which provide urban consumers and the private sector the opportunity to engage in fostering the local food system and supporting small-scale rural producers. It also focuses on gender mainstreaming by helping women promote their decision-making power and offer them the potential to invest their skills in new livelihood strategies thus fostering their economic empowerment.

Ardi Ardak Song

The workshop started with an introductory note by Dr. Shadi Hamadeh, director of ESDU, followed by a welcoming note by Dr. Rabih Mohtar Dean of FAFS. Mrs. Asma Zein, president of LLWB talked about the importance of empowering rural women, while Dr. Hania Hammoud, Executive Board Member at the National Commission for Lebanese Women (NCLW) presented the state of Land tenure and Access to Land under the Lebanese Law and the opportunities that these provide for the agriculture sector. Her talk focused on the factors that hinder access to agricultural lands in Lebanon and the legal means that can help facilitate access to these lands.

Ardi Ardak initiatives were presented by Mr. Nicolas Gholam from ESDU, and Ms. Sarah Karam highlighted the alignment of these initiatives with ESDU activities and projects. On the other hand, Mrs. Patricia Kebbe presented Zico House as community based agri-food hub, and Dr. Yaser Abunnasr, LDEM Chairperson, presented the Community Garden that will be established at the FAFS ECO-UNIT.

Ardi Ardak on MTV prime time news

The FAFS ECO-UNIT will be a showcase for sustainable agro-ecological practices and will be a prototype of integrated agricultural, landscape, conservation, and food practices. It will expand the educational, research, and community outreach activities of the faculty within AUB; at the same it will disseminate knowledge outside the University.


FHF recognized among 16 Initiatives Redefining Food and Agriculture Across the Middle East

The Food Heritage Foundation was recognized at the among 16 Initiatives Redefining Food and Agriculture Across the Middle East.

The Food Heritage Foundation is named as one of the organizations across the Middle East are working to confront the challenges of urbanizationfood and nutrition insecuritynatural resource scarcity, and climate change and came up with solutions that are environmentally and economically sustainable—as well as socially just. 

Full article available here.


FHF in FAO’s Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Improved Nutrition

The Food Heritage Foundation, represented by Mrs. Dominique Anid Gerebtzoff co-founder and Health & Nutrition specialist, took part of FAO’s Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Improved Nutrition which took place in Rome during December 1-3, 2016.

Happy to be at FAO headquarter!!

The International Symposium that was held in FAO headquarters, Rome is a follow-up to the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2). The Symposium contributed to the continued dialogue, engagement and collaboration between country governments and stakeholders around the identification of innovative solutions that enable food systems to deliver healthy diets for improved nutrition.

Mrs. Gerebtzoff presented the foundation’s different initiatives with a focus on “Women empowerment for improved household access to healthy diets in Lebanon”. The panel”Empowering women as key drivers of food system change” was very rich with experiences from Lebanon (FHF), South Africa, Tadjikistan, Paraguay and Canada around sustainable diets, healthy diets and improved nutrition!

Dominique (first on the right) among the the ladies participating in the session

Another Lebanese participant was the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU) represented by its director Dr. Shadi Hamadeh who had as well a strong representation all throughout the Symposium. ESDU’s vision and programs were also presented the Symposium through a presentation entitled “Response to the food security crisis in conflicts; embedding development into relief” as part of the session on enhancing food system resilience in areas affected by climate change and other crisis.

We are very happy and proud to have participated in this international symposium and to have shared our work with people from all around the globe.

Thank you FAO for this great opportunity!

The full coverage of the session is available on this link:

Dominique during her presentation


Ending the year with more cooking!

It is with more cooking and food assistance that the Food Heritage Foundation ends its year!

The cooks from Zahle CK with trainers Dr. Salwa Tohme Tawk and Ms. Marwa Soubra - Food Safety officer of FHF
The cooks from Zahle CK with trainers Dr. Salwa Tohme Tawk and Ms. Marwa Soubra – Food Safety officer of FHF

In collaboration with the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), FHF is currently working closely with ladies from 2 associations (Nusroto in Zahle & The Orthodox Orphanage in Tripoli) to establish two new community kitchens that will mainly provide food assistance to vulnerable Syrian refugee and Lebanese families.

Ms. Dominique Anid - Health & Nutrition Specialist of FHF, introducing the concept of community kitchen to the ladies of Zahle CK
Ms. Dominique Anid – Health & Nutrition Specialist of FHF, introducing the concept of community kitchen to the ladies of Zahle CK

The teams of ladies cooks in both areas (around 15 women) were trained by FHF members on the latest food safety standards, healthy nutrition, kitchen management and menu development.

It's pasta cooking day in Tripoli community kitchen!
It’s pasta cooking day in Tripoli community kitchen!

Accordingly, the 2 new kitchens will very soon be filled with smells of richta, hommous b burghur, wheat with laban and many more traditional healthy recipes that were chosen by the ladies themselves to feed around 250 families in Zahle and Tripoli.

Ms. Marwa Soubra giving a training on food safety
Ms. Marwa Soubra giving a training on food safety

This program aims to improve the livelihoods of the ladies cooks leading the kitchens while alleviating food insecurity and enhancing dietary diversity of vulnerable refugee and local families. These kitchens could also be turned into small business enterprises at a later stage to sustain their activities and ensure revenues to the ladies’ teams.

Brainstorming on the recipes to be included in the menu
Brainstorming on the recipes to be included in the menu