From regenerative agriculture to labelling, FutureFoodMakers has created a Menu for Change for a more sustainable way of putting produce on our plates, write Sasha Cohen Ioannides and Dr Andy Zynga
In a crucial year for global food system dialogues, we need the next generation – who will be most affected by the decisions made today – to have a seat at the table in shaping a future-fit food system. We know that the world cannot achieve its goal of limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees without addressing global food systems, yet food was not high enough on the agenda at COP26.
That is why, as we look to make food a high priority in global sustainability and health dialogues over the next year and beyond, we need to involve all stakeholders in these conversations. This extends from describing the issues to developing the solutions, and young people need to be a part of this. To start this process off, we set up an initiative to bring together 10 young FutureFoodMakers to represent young people across Europe and make their views, needs and recommendations known through a manifesto they are calling the Menu for Change.
Young people are most willing to embrace new ways of producing and consuming food, but their voices are often not present during conversations about system transformation
After EIT Food carried out research with more than 2,000 young people in Europe, it was clear to us that they were engaged with the food system and how they want it to operate, but equally concerned about the future. Nearly eight in 10 young people said we need to take urgent action to make the way we produce and consume food more sustainable. Two-thirds also stated that our current food system is destroying the planet, and that the situation is only getting worse. In fact, 61% said they think the food sector has become less sustainable in recent years.
These concerns also extend to the health and accessibility of food. Three-quarters said they need clearer advice on how to eat a healthy, balanced diet, with two-thirds reporting they didn’t get enough education on how to eat healthily while at school. Almost eight in 10 also said young people need better advice on the link between what they eat and their mental health, as well as just under two thirds reporting they feel it can be hard to know how to eat healthily due to so much conflicting advice.
With this research in mind, and a clear demand from fellow young people for change, the Menu for Change was developed by the FutureFoodMakers as a six-point manifesto for the food system. We designed this to make European food sector stakeholders aware of the food-system priorities that young people feel need to be addressed now. From regenerative agriculture and nutritional guidelines to food waste and food accessibility and education, the calls to action in the manifesto put pressure on policymakers, businesses and consumers across the food system to reflect, pause and think, “are we doing enough?” The process of writing the Menu for Change was not easy, as we sought out the best ways to holistically analyse the food system and target key areas in a concise way.
The calls to action in the Menu for Change are:
Target 25% of EU agricultural land to be managed under regenerative practices by 2030 and develop a training body to support existing and new farmers in the transition to regenerative farming
Define uniform EU nutrition and labelling guidelines that are easy and accessible, meet individuals’ needs and include the environmental impact of food products
Develop an inclusion policy that considers the effects of regulations on food costs among vulnerable populations and the provision of vouchers for nutrient-rich foods
Develop an EU-wide true cost of food policy that mandates the calculation of the true cost of foods produced by medium-large corporations and multinationals through the implementation of lifecycle analysis and impact assessments
Tackle food waste in supermarkets and through the development of the bioeconomy strategy by creating supermarket reduction monitoring plans that feed into the EU-wide food waste monitoring programme, and accelerating the development of substitutes to fossil fuel-based materials that are biobased, recyclable or biodegradable at EU level
Include the nutritional, health and environmental implications of food in education curriculums for children, as well as provide support and resources for parents and teachers on healthy and sustainable diets.
Young people are those most willing to embrace new technologies ideas and ways of producing and consuming food, but their voices are often not present during conversations about food system transformation. Whether this is due to a lack of access to dialogues with decision makers, fear of the unknown, or simply because they will not make up the majority of the voting age population for another 15 years, it is crucial that they have the opportunity to engage in other ways.
We both attended the EIT Food Future of Food conference 2021, where the FutureFoodMakers presented the Menu for Change. Despite it being important to present the six points as individual elements, the FutureFoodMakers stressed the fact that these challenges are all connected, and so too should our approach be to accelerating innovation and creating viable solutions. In response to hearing the calls to action in the Menu for Change, the European Commission deputy director-general in DG Health and Food Safety, Claire Bury, said, “You’ve made us sit up, stand up and listen… We are all part of the solution… keep using your voices in this way; be active and be part of the change we all want to see.”
Food sector stakeholders need to actively involve young people in conversations about food as standard
And this message is important. As we look to the future of our food system, young people should continue to fight for the future of food, and food sector stakeholders need to actively involve young people in conversations about food as standard. As FutureFoodMaker Kari Nölken said at the Future of Food conference, “the Menu for Change is only the beginning”. The FutureFoodMakers are excited to continue working together as a group and with EIT Food, but know there is lots more to be done. We are at the brink of irreversible change and we all have a role to play in speaking up and transforming our food system for the better. The time to act, together, is now.
Sasha Cohen Ioannides has co-founded two startups: Ecotone Renewables, transforming food waste into fertiliser and electricity, and FarmEZ, empowering farmers through price sharing, through the Young Sustainable Impact Incubator. Sasha was selected as one of the 10 FutureFoodMakers in September 2021.
Dr. Andy Zynga is the CEO of EIT Food, the world’s largest food innovation community working to build a future-fit food system that produces healthy and sustainable food for all. Based in Leuven, Andy has international experience in food systems, innovation, telecoms and technology services and a proven track record in building profitable businesses in the USA and Europe.
sustainable agriculture food waste EIT nutrition