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A generation calling for urgent action: The FutureFoodMakers and the Menu for Change

30 November 2021

The EIT Food FutureFoodMakers have launched their manifesto for the food system, the Menu for Change. Find out more about their calls to action for European food sector stakeholders.

Download the Menu for Change

“The future of our food is at risk.” This is the resounding message from the FutureFoodMakers, a group of young Europeans demanding change in the food system. “It is clear the time for change is now, and we - the next generation of leaders, decision makers and consumers - deserve to have a say about these changes and what our future food system should look like. It is time for young people to be heard.”

Never before has a generation been so proactive in the way we think about food and environment. As it stands young people are to inherit a planet that will be four degrees warmer, threatening the availability and nutrition quality of what they eat as well as the air they breathe. The question that has to be answered by all key players in the food system is: how are young people involved in transforming the food system so that it becomes resilient, affordable and accessible to all?" 

Mike Nkhombo Khunga - Global Youth Advocate for Nutrition (1)

With approximately another 15 years before Gen Z forms the majority of the voting age population, along with the 'Millennials' (born between 1981 and 1995/1996) (2), it is important to find other ways in which their voices and opinions can be heard. Earlier in 2021 EIT Food commissioned research to explore how young people view the current challenges in our food system, and the results clearly showed that action is needed. In supporting the FutureFoodMakers, our aim is to ensure that the voices of this generation are part of the conversation now. Importantly, GenZ should be working together with other food system stakeholders, to build the food system that they will inherit. 

The research revealed that Gen Z had concerns around the healthiness of food as well as the sustainability and impact of the food system on our planet. It found that two-thirds (66%) of young people think our current food system is destroying the planet and nearly eight in 10 (78%) believe we need to take urgent action to make the way we produce and consume food more sustainable. In fact, 61% said they think the food sector has become less sustainable in recent years.

“As I grew up, I started learning more and more about global warming, and the biological and social impacts it has. I was, and still am, determined to change the world for the better.”

Brenda Langevoort, FutureFoodMaker

Who are the FutureFoodMakers?  

In July 2021, in the run up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit and COP26, EIT Food embarked on a mission to find 10 young Europeans who were passionate about driving change in the food system, for their generation and future generations to come. The 10 FutureFoodMakers were selected by a panel of food system experts and stakeholders and were tasked with creating a manifesto that they would then present to agrifood decision makers at the EIT Food Future of Food conference

“Our need for more sustainable food consumption cannot be ignored and we should not leave the future of our food system to others,” say the FutureFoodMakers. “We need to drive change ourselves! We are calling on all young people to shape the decisions that define our future: increase your knowledge, put pressure on policymakers, and use your consumer power wisely to influence retailers and producers. We all need to take responsibility for our food system.”

“We are eating food that is killing us and we are killing the planet through the ways we are producing it. I would love to see people eating healthy food that is full of vitamins and nutrients and has been produced in a sustainable way.”

Eliska Waclawkova, FutureFoodMaker

In preparation to create their manifesto, the FutureFoodMakers were given opportunities to engage with a range of food system stakeholders. This included posting polls on our consumer facing platform FoodUnfolded’s social media channels, enabling them to gather insights about consumers’ views on the future of food.

 

“I strongly believe that my voice is powerful and can move others to take action.”

Chloé Dorin, FutureFoodMaker

Two of the FutureFoodMakers participated in the EIT Food Annual Partner Event and Venture Summit in Málaga where they met with agrifood entrepreneurs and members of the EIT Food community and shared their views on the importance of young voices in food system transformation.

Speaking on stage in Málaga, FutureFoodMaker Júlia Montoliu Boneu described eating food as a “political act”, explaining that everyone has a responsibility to stand up and demand change in the food system at all levels. Júlia stressed the urgent need for young people to have their say, considering they are the generation who will be most impacted by decisions made today. 

“During the latest years of my degree, I became more aware of the fact that diet and sustainability go hand in hand and that helping people choose healthier alternatives could result in the promotion of more sustainable habits.”

Júlia Montoliu Boneu, FutureFoodMaker

Similarly, at COP26, one of Júlia’s fellow FutureFoodMakers, Sasha Cohen Ioannides, highlighted that young people are excited about agrifood innovation and must be included in innovation processes. During the EIT Food event in the Global Innovation Hub Pavilion at COP26, Sasha said, “innovation is all about being creative and solving problems that we face everyday. It’s important that we utilise innovation as a tool to develop more sustainable and ethical solutions.”

What is the Menu for Change?

The FutureFoodMakers’ manifesto for European food sector stakeholders includes six priority calls to action. These are the key things which the FutureFoodMakers believe would drive positive change, have the most impact for more people, and make the food system better for us all. They call this manifesto the Menu for Change.

Download the Menu for Change

The Menu for Change calls upon European food sector stakeholders to: 

1. 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  

“When working to develop policies surrounding the agricultural portion of the food value chain, we ran into a few challenges, wanting to ensure the most holistic overview. We originally had the thought of including both regenerative agriculture, a hot topic within the agricultural community at the moment, and the concept of biodiversity preservation. However, after realising their impact on one another, we found the two were wholly connected and it made more sense to view them as one concept instead. Our holistic overview encompasses that of regenerative implementation and future innovation in order to ensure the European agricultural sector stays as sustainable as possible.”

Sasha Cohen Ioannides, FutureFoodMaker

2. Define uniform EU nutrition and labelling guidelines which are easy and accessible, meet individuals needs and include the environmental impact of food products 

“The food we choose to eat everyday has a great impact on our health and the environment and is an important tool to achieve the SDGs. However, most people are unaware of this and are confused about different diet and lifestyle tips from the media. Thus, higher authorities such as policymakers and health agencies need to communicate in an easy and accessible way to everyone how we should eat, which can be done through food labels based on uniform EU nutrition guidelines that emphasise a healthy and environmentally friendly diet. This would not only improve our health and wellbeing but reduce carbon emissions and costs for health care systems.”

Kari Nölken, FutureFoodMaker

3. 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 

“The COVID-19 pandemic magnified how much poor and marginalised communities were the most affected regarding food accessibility. Last year, food accessibility showed exclusivity rather than inclusivity across all European countries. An effective way to implement change is to leverage the European economy and power instead of dealing with the issue at the country level. As the FutureFoodMakers, we are asking European-level policymakers to develop a European food inclusion policy. We see a future where food equity is no longer an issue and where inclusive food systems are put into place to benefit the world's vulnerable populations sustainably.”

Charlotte Viale, FutureFoodMaker

4. 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 life cycle analysis and impact assessments 

“Addressing the future of our food in a systematic way, we felt it was essential to address how we value food as a society. For example, what is a fair price for the food we eat? How does the producer earn a living? How do we compensate for the effects of our food on environment and health? This led us to explore the potential of True Cost Accounting, which can help us to reflect the true price of our food products, including both positive and negative externalities. By reflecting these externalities in the cost of a product, systems change can be accelerated by providing an alternative model to how we conventionally value food.”

Poppy Eyre, FutureFoodMaker

5. Tackle food waste in supermarkets and through 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

“Considering that the world will reach 10 billion inhabitants by 2050, the young generations are fully aware that the food system is currently wasting too many resources. We realise that following the current pathway is a luxury we do not have. To reach long-term and sustainable changes consumers, food retailers and policymakers have to cooperate. We chose supermarkets as the primary audience of our call to action because they have the ability to reach and influence all other food stakeholders. Our primary goal is to raise awareness and, ultimately, influence the rest of the food system to follow in the footsteps of supermarkets.”

Emilija Oreščanin, FutureFoodMaker

6. 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. 

“School-based food and nutrition education will help the whole school community to achieve lasting improvements in their food practices and outlooks for children, parents and educators. We believe that tackling this issue from an early age is the best way to reduce currently rising malnutrition taxes and the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases, as well as to improve our climate emergency situation through a diet focused on the health of the people and the planet.”

Ricard Celorio i Sardà, FutureFoodMaker  

Watch the FutureFoodMakers present the Menu for Change at the Future of Food conference below:

 

Taking action now to secure the food system of the future  

We need to ensure that young people continue to be instrumental in shaping the future of the food system. EIT Food is committed to a food system where all stakeholders are at the table and everyone has a say about how to build a future-fit food system together. As future decision makers, and those that will be most impacted by the decisions made today, it is crucial that young people are included in this and have access to dialogues and innovation processes.

Including young people in conversations about food systems as respected stakeholders should be standard practice, and over the coming months we will be working with our community to co-create solutions which make this happen at all levels. We believe in inclusive systems innovation, which requires all parts of the food system to work together to come up with innovative solutions to the huge food challenges our world is currently facing. We all have a role to play in making this happen: ensuring that the issues which have been raised by the FutureFoodMakers in the Menu for Change are taken seriously, and serve as a catalyst for involvement of young people in the transformation of the food system going forwards. 

Further reading

References

  1. United Nations Food Systems Summit: Young people can play a role in building food systems during crises like COVID-19
  2. European Parliamentary Research Service: Next generation or lost generation? Children, young people and the pandemic
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About The Author: EIT Food

EIT Food is Europe’s leading food innovation initiative, working to make the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted.

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