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Gen Z demand overhaul of food system to protect the planet

28 November 2021 Young people across Europe are demanding EU wide changes to transform the food system to be more sustainable, including promoting regenerative agriculture, defining uniform nutrition and labelling guidelines, and making food systems more inclusive.

Gen Z demand overhaul of food system to protect the planet
  • 10 young ‘FutureFoodMakers’ launch manifesto at the Future of Food Conference, calling for radical transformation to make the food system more sustainable
  • ‘Menu for Change’ manifesto calls for regenerative agriculture, uniform nutrition and labelling guidelines, tackling food waste and an EU-wide true cost of food policy
  • New research reveals young people aged 18 – 24 think the global food system is in crisis, and only getting worse – with two-thirds believing that the current food system is destroying the planet.

Young people across Europe are demanding EU wide changes to transform the food system to be more sustainable, including promoting regenerative agriculture, defining uniform nutrition and labelling guidelines, and making food systems more inclusive.

To ensure that the views of the next generation are heard during crucial discussions about the future of the food system, EIT Food has worked closely with 10 innovators aged 18-24, appointing them as ‘FutureFoodMakers’ to spearhead a call for radical change. EIT Food is the world's largest food innovation community, supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

These FutureFoodMakers have developed a ‘Menu for Change’ of six priority demands for the food system to improve access to healthy, sustainable and affordable food, which is being presented to an audience of policymakers and food system leaders at the Future of Food Conference 2021. The six demands reflect the areas the FutureFoodMakers feel will be the most impactful in ensuring that the next generation can inherit a future-fit food system.

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

  • 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 which 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 life cycle 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.

Find out more and download the Menu for Change

The Menu for Change reflects new research that reveals young people across Europe want an overhaul of the global food system to protect the environment.

The new research, commissioned by EIT Food, surveyed over 2,000 18-24 year olds from across the UK, France, Germany, Poland and Spain. The findings show that nearly eight in 10 young people (78%) think we need to take urgent action to make the way we produce and consume food more sustainable.

Meanwhile, two-thirds (66%) feel that our current food system is destroying the planet, and that the situation is only getting worse, as 61% think the food sector has become less sustainable in recent years.

Food sustainability is of growing concern for this age group, with two-thirds (64%) saying it has become more important to them in the past 12 months, while 65% think that Gen Z cares more about this than older generations.

Of agriculture practices and food products, Gen Z consider fruit and vegetable farming to be one of the most sustainable options, with 74% saying they believe this to be sustainable. This is followed by growing food locally (74%), organic farming (72%) and plant-based foods (70%). Meanwhile, half of young people (50%) consider importing food to be unsustainable. 

Dr. Andy Zynga, CEO of EIT Food, said:

“In a crucial year for global climate talks, we need the next generation – who will be most affected by the climate crisis – 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 could have been more prominent on the agenda at COP26. That is why, as we look to make food a high priority in global sustainability dialogues over the next year, we have brought together 10 young FutureFoodMakers to represent young people across Europe, and make their views, needs and recommendations known through the Menu for Change.” 

Júlia Montoliu Boneu, FutureFoodMaker, said:

"We – the next generation of leaders, decision makers and consumers – deserve a voice about these changes and what our future food system should look like. It is time for young people to be heard. Representing young people from across Europe, the Menu for Change puts forward our views on how the agrifood decision makers of today should be working to secure our food, our food system, and our future. Underpinning this is the universal need for social justice and inclusion. Transitioning to a better, more resilient European food system requires urgent change and innovation across the food value chain - from farmers, manufacturers, and retailers to governments, NGOs and consumers. As we use these recommendations to drive conversations with stakeholders across the agrifood sector, we must ensure no one is left behind and everyone’s voice is heard.”

For further information on the work of the FutureFoodMakers, please see the following link: https://www.eitfood.eu/projects/become-a-futurefoodmaker.

For more information, please contact: Julia Bush, Greenhouse: julia.bush@greenhouse.agency

About the research

The research was conducted by Opinium on behalf of EIT Food. The sample consisted of 2,055 adults aged 18-24 across the UK, France, Germany, Poland and Spain. Fieldwork took place 30th June – 5th July 2021.

The research also shows that Gen Z consider the EU to be the body that should take the most responsibility in ensuring that our food is sustainable, with nearly half (46%) choosing the EU, compared to 39% for national governments. However, this differs starkly across countries, rising to 58% in Poland, and falling to 33% in the UK.

Of the things that would most encourage young people to buy more sustainable food, discounts on sustainable food was ranked highest at 37%, followed by more sustainable options at schools, colleges and universities (29%) alongside more options for sustainable food when ordering home delivery food, such as through Deliveroo or Uber Eats (28%).

Generation Z

Generation Z are typically those born after 1995/96. This research focused on young people aged 18-24.

About EIT Food 

EIT Food is the world’s largest and most dynamic food innovation community. We accelerate innovation to build a future-fit food system that produces healthy and sustainable food for all. ​ 

Supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union, we invest in projects, organisations and individuals that share our goals for a healthy and sustainable food system. We unlock innovation potential in businesses and universities, and create and scale agrifood startups to bring new technologies and products to market. We equip entrepreneurs and professionals with the skills needed to transform the food system and put consumers at the heart of our work, helping build trust by reconnecting them to the origins of their food. 

We are one of eight innovation communities established by the European Institute for Innovation & Technology (EIT), an independent EU body set up in 2008 to drive innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe.  

Find out more at www.eitfood.eu or follow us via social media: TwitterFacebookLinkedInYouTube and Instagram.

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