Engaging with the Local Community to talk about the Future of Food

07 November 2019 North-West United Kingdom News EIT Food Projects Education Public Engagement EIT Food participated in the Reading Town Meal event in the UK in September 2019, where the local community gathered together to celebrate healthy and sustainable food.

Engaging with the Local Community to talk about the Future of Food

Exploring the future of food through virtual reality

At the event, food was donated by local growers and allotment holders and cooked by students from the local college. This tasty and healthy meal was a celebration of local and sustainable food served for free and enjoyed alongside family entertainment including live music from local bands. EIT Food had a marquee at this event and engaged with the community through fun and educational activities.

Raising awareness of EIT Food to the local community
Raising awareness of EIT Food to the local community

Engaging with families on the Future of Food

We offered fun and educational games including virtual reality experiences demonstrated by Hordur Kristinsson, the Chief Science & Innovation Officer and Holly Kristinsson, the Consultant for Research & Innovation from MATIS. Virtual reality headsets were particularly popular with children who could experience the future of food by exploring the kitchen of the future and tomato farms in Iceland, all while being in their local park.  

Virtual Reality is an amazing tool to engage and bring a personal and community connection to food. At the Reading Town Meal people were surprised and amazed by how they can feel as though they are in the food system and become immersed in food tech!” – Holly Kristinsson, MATIS

 

Dr Natalie Masento from the University of Reading put the EIT Food ‘Games of Food’ project into practice, by running ‘Escape Games’ for families. This project is increasing public awareness around balanced nutrition and a healthy lifestyle through the use of these newly developed games. During the event, teams escaped a Zombie Attack by solving food-related puzzles while competing to complete the game in the fastest time. The game demonstrated how families can learn about food together to increase their overall knowledge of smart food choices.

“Gamification is the best way to teach in my opinion” – Games of Food participant

Escaping a Zombie Attack by solving food-related puzzles
Escaping a Zombie Attack by solving food-related puzzles

Other activities included a food waste treasure hunt where families searched for images of commonly wasted food products such as bread and potatoes to raise awareness of the food waste crisis. Families who completed the treasure hunt won prizes, including Food Waste Recipes to encourage repurposing leftovers rather than throwing them away.

We also tested the local community’s knowledge on seasonal fruit and vegetables to encourage consumers to grow their own food to enjoy throughout the year.

Testing people’s knowledge of seasonal fruit and vegetables
Testing people’s knowledge of seasonal fruit and vegetables

To help people understand more about how much sugar is added to common foods, 4 popular food and beverage products were displayed outside the EIT Food tent including: Cola drink, Low-Fat yoghurt, Baked Beans and Tomato Sauce. When asked: ‘Which contains the highest amount of added sugar per 100 grams?’ people could simply place a cork in the jar behind their choice. The most common answer was Coca drink. Do you agree? Let us know what you think here.

With of these food and beverage products has the most added sugar per 100 grams?
With of these food and beverage products has the most added sugar per 100 grams?

Promoting our free online food courses

EIT Food held a public talk on one of our free online courses helping people discover more about the food they eat. The talk was led by Andrew Ainslie, a Social Anthropologist from the International Development Group at the University of Reading. Andrew discussed the free online course ‘Engaging with Food Controversies in the Food System’. The 3-week course is available on FutureLearn and enables learners to assess the reliability of different sources of food information and understand more about the most common food controversies - alternative proteins, palm oil, and probiotics.

Learning about the value of food

The outcome of the event was to bring the Reading local community together through food. We engaged with consumers on the importance of reconnecting with food and valuing the journey food makes from ‘farm to fork’.

“It’s good for the kids to learn about the food they eat” – Games of Food participant

Learning the value of food through fun and educational games and activities
Learning the value of food through fun and educational games and activities

According to Education Programme Manager Vivien Bodereau, “Food bonds people together and encourages discussion” and that was the aim of the local community event. After engaging with the public, it was clear that people have different opinions on food, whether it is choosing to buy local produce or adopting a plant-based diet for the benefit of the planet. Consumer opinions are vital in shaping the future of food, as their consumption behaviours influence the actions of the food system.  At EIT Food we are encouraging everyone to get involved to help us improve food together.

Find out how you can get involved with EIT Food here.

Would you like to find out more about our free online courses? Click here to view the courses on FutureLean.

About the author: Laura Elphick is a Communications and Events Assistant at EIT Food. She holds a First-Class Bachelor’s Degree in Consumer Behaviour and Marketing and is passionate about promoting a sustainable food environment to consumers.

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