By 2050, there will be over 9 billion people on the planet; 70% of which will live in cities. This demographic evolution will take place against the backdrop of global warming, land, resource and water scarcity, reduced biodiversity and increased social and economic deprivation and exclusion of farmers worldwide. Scientists expect that up to 50% more food will need to be produced in the current food system to be able to feed this growing global population.
Increasing production is not enough. What we produce and how we produce it is more important. The food system needs to provide products that feed the population in a way that is as efficient and healthy as possible, while having an environmental impact that is as low as possible.
Wanted: Food for the Future was unique in its approach. This co-creative project combined the expertise of four partners with different backgrounds that looked for the 'what’ and ‘how' together. As such, the project was start of a much larger movement of partnerships. Colruyt Group and Rikolto contributed withtheir expertise in the field of chain development, making product chains sustainable and marketing the end products. KU Leuven provided academic support for the project, raised critical questions and documented the co-creative process. The Province of Flemish Brabant involved young people, organisations, educational institutes, etc. thanks to its extensive network in the region.
The four partners shared a common goal, but didn't have the same perspective. This encouraged them to enter into constructive debate, and do so without reservations or taboos. They didthis by collectively challenging the different perspectives and putting the most pressing questions that arise from practice on the table. The four partners take a vulnerable position in doing so. After all, this is the only way the debate can be properly held.
The involvement of citizens/consumers was crucial for the entire project. The consumers of the future are the youth of today. They mapped out the challenge, were part of taste panels, gave input for academic research and product development, and provided their critical opinion on the project. By working with caterers in school cafeterias, we took the product to young people’s plates. Teachers also workedon sustainable food, using a new 'Food for the Future' module.
In order to feed the debate from practice, we set up three new sustainable chains that resulted in a number of sustainable products in the store racks. To this end, we used the following criteria: nutritious and healthy, ecologically sustainable and climate-proof, economically viable, relevant to the development of the local market in the South, socially, economically and/or ecological added value for the local producer, added value for the Belgian consumer, complementary to products from the North, ecological, economic and/or social innovation, etc.
Based on these criteria, pulses from East Africa, Andean crops (such as quinoa) and seaweed from Indonesia were opted for. The three chains each have their own specificity. They allowed us to focus on new things each time and, thus, telling a story that is as complete as possible.
Wanted: Food for the Future transcends the traditional Western world versus developing countries division. Not only are the issues global, the chains themselves are too. It made sense for us to also look for solutions that benefit everyone. After all, a nutritious and tasty end product begins with a healthy and honestly grown resource.
Attention for the local working conditions, participation, sales markets and development opportunities are just as important as economic viability, ecological footprint and the nutritional value. After all,– we cannot have one without the other if we want to equip ourselves for the future, and this is exactly the vision we wanted to promote.