The Food Waste Fest in numbers:
Food waste is a hot topic, and Covid has put the fight for a more sustainable food economy into even sharper relief. If we want to tackle the food waste crisis effectively, we need to work together to get to the next level. That’s exactly what FoodWIN, Interreg NWE Food Heroes and the Flemish Food Supply Chain Platform for Food Loss have done with this digital Food Waste Fest.
Over two days, entrepreneurs and policymakers emphasised the need for extensive collaboration between all stakeholders in the food supply chain. The pandemic offers a unique opportunity to harness a new awareness among the public: a realisation that our food supplies are vulnerable, and that tackling food waste can be the starting point of a better future.
“Some of the most interesting moments in the fight against food waste have been when you can’t tell the difference between entrepreneurs and activists.”
Food is at the heart of our social fabric, which is reflected in the word ‘companionship’: literally ‘sharing bread’. If we can find that companionship again by building a movement that involves all stakeholders, from activists to entrepreneurs, we will be able to improve the current food chain. The corona pandemic has increased public awareness of the need for companionship, so we can harness this momentum. If we work together, we can turn the tide.
Q: How can we start the right collaborations to get action going?
A: The reason that the food waste and environmental movements have not emerged in their full power, is that all the stakeholders work in artificial little cells. As we say at Toast Ale: ‘If you want to change the world, you need to throw a better party than the people destroying it’. Ask yourself: how do we get people to join the party?
Q: How do you think the corona crisis will impact the fight against food waste?
A: We already know how to farm in ways that create habitat, that replenish water tables, that suck carbon out of the atmosphere. We have the possibility to use our food system to combat our own environmental impact. Covid has given us the opportunity to see ourselves as one humanity again, with a common, non-human enemy. It has also shifted people’s eating, buying and living patterns. Let’s hope we can emerge from this crisis as one entity, working together against ecological calamity.
The Food Heroes project was started four years ago, aiming to reduce waste in the primary sector – specifically fishing, wonky fruits & vegetables, and male animal farming. The aim: coming up with 15 solid, innovative solutions to tackle these issues. To achieve this, we use a co-creative design approach: we bring in a variety of stakeholders, so that we have lots of different angles to look at the problem and identify real-world solutions.
The approach works: we ended up with well over 15 projects that tackle all sorts of food waste issues. These include, but are not limited to: making kimchi from the often-wasted parts of leeks, creating liquor from strawberries that cannot be sold, and many more. Thanks to collaboration and co-creative design, these solutions could be implemented effectively.
Soup producer enVie tackles food waste and unemployment simultaneously. How? Social entrepreneur Naomi Smith explained how partnerships are at the core of the company’s route to success in a panel discussion with two co-founding partners: Dominiek Keersebilck from REO auction, Annelies Noblesse from Colruyt Group. Melanie Van Raaij from Innovatiesteunpunt, project partner in Food Heroes, the project in which enVie won an Award for best initiative tackling food waste, joins as well.
Q: What does successful collaboration look like at enVie?
A: Before we had the concept of enVie, we brought together partners to figure out how we could solve the issues of food waste and unemployment together. We knew we needed a food product to sell. We would need a supplier, which became REO auction; a place to produce the product, so McCain came on board with its expertise; a place to sell it, namely Colruyt; and a partner to help with the employment part, which brought us to Randstad. So enVie incorporates partners from the entire production chain. It works because we all own it – that’s the key to a lasting partnership.
Q: What are the challenges you encounter in this collaboration?
A: There’s a big scale difference between a startup like enVie and a giant like Colruyt, so we are constantly struggling to fit into each others’ shoes. The other challenge is communication. You need to put in the time to make sure people understand what you’re trying to do, and to make them feel like they own the process. There are issues, but we get to tackle them together, with our combined expertise.
Vzw De Lovie, which supports people with mental disabilities, provides around 600 meals a day. Kitchen manager Pieter Paelinck and his team got inspired to track & tackle food waste throughout the organisation and discussed the process with FoodWIN co-director Elke Markey.
Q: What challenges did you run into?
A: I thought we were already doing well with our estimates in the kitchen, but I was shocked to find that about 30% of our food went to waste. We made sure to spread this number among staff and residents to raise awareness. However, upon our second measurement after 6 months we had not made much progress. We decided to get help from the specialists at FoodWIN, who created a tailored action plan to help us progress.
Q: What solutions did you come up with?
A: Knowing the preferences of your audience is key. A tasty meal means something different to everyone, so we can avoid food waste if we know the preferences of our residents. Getting them involved also means that they are more aware of the food waste problem, and they can alert the staff if portions are too big or the food is not to their liking.
Food shapes our lives in many ways that we’re not aware of. We’ve come a long way from being hunter-gatherers, to full-time farmers, to consumers who are no longer involved in the production of food. We think of this as progress, but it brings along a host of problems: we have begun to lose understanding of what food really is, and of how it connects us to one another and to nature.
If we want to solve these issues, we need to revalue food. Covid offers us an opportunity because the crisis has drawn attention to how fragile our supply system is. This has led to a renewed interest in nature and local production. We can use this momentum to implement the solutions we already know: creating better urban design, supporting local producers, encouraging regenerative farming, and putting food back where it belongs – at the heart of society.
Q: How can we harness the momentum created by Covid when it comes to valuing local food chains?
A: It’s a lie that time is money. Time is time! We need to rethink the way we live, and get away from the false construct that food is, or should be, cheap. Giving people the space, time and money to value food again is a revolutionary act. Covid has made people rediscover what is valuable in life: community, happiness, having time. This is a great opportunity to press the point home. As Epicurus said: “the way to be happy is to find joy in the necessary”. There is nothing more necessary than food.
As environment counselor to Flemish minister Zuhal Demir, Victor Dries enlightened us on the outcomes of the food waste road map the Flemish government and the sector federations from the food supply chain have created. His presentation gave us an insight into key policy points around food waste in Flanders.
Q: What has the food waste road map taught us?
A: We have identified plenty of action points and solutions through our collaboration. Raising awareness of food waste is an important point, both with consumers and in the industry and hospitality sectors. Tracking and monitoring food waste is also invaluable, and in catering settings this led to a 25% reduction in food waste. An overview of solutions can be found at voedselverlies.be – a great resource for anyone wanting to reduce waste.
Q: What lessons can we take away for the future?
A: Cooperation is key throughout the chain: food waste is a complex issue that occurs at every level, so we need everyone to take responsibility. Based on this insight, the Flemish government set out 7 priorities for the coming years. These include local and sector-specific programmes to tackle specific issues; a focus on better redistribution of surplus food; and supporting startups and innovators in the sector.
Q: Prevention is key, but what can we do about unavoidable food waste?
A: We are ahead of European policy in Flanders, as we have been collecting domestic food waste for decades. We want to ensure that this separate collection is extended to the industrial and private sectors. This is already part of legislation, but implementation is key: we need to work with private partners at the local level, and create business models that work, so that everyone is incentivised to reduce waste and recycle.
Herwin, Kort’om, Steunpunt Korte Keten, De Winning
Is the utopian concept of the food hub a solution to combat food waste and create a sustainable food chain? Partners from Herwin, Kort’om Leuven, Steunpunt Korte Keten and De Winning brainstorm about what an ideal food hub could look like. Learn all about the importance of short supply chains, collaborative distribution platforms, and the effective revaluation of food surplus – and take a step towards a socially supported food distribution model for the cities of tomorrow.
With Caroo Torfs & Brecht Van der Meulen (Herwin), Lieve Vanotterdijk (De Winning)
Food Heroes, University of Lincoln, Ilvo
“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” – Dr Chris Bishop, University of Lincoln
How big are food losses at the farm level? At the start of the Food Heroes project, the organisers found that there was a serious lack of data on this problem. Enter ILVO and the University of Lincoln, who performed studies and found that food loss at the farm level is a major issue. Discover why inventarising food loss in the primary sector is essential, how you can measure it accurately, and how you can use the resulting data to come up with innovative solutions for food waste reduction and food valorisation.
With Nathalie Bernaert (ILVO), Jana Roels (Innovatiesteunpunt), Chris Bishop (University of Lincoln)
Food Heroes, Innovatiesteunpunt, Dutch Design Foundation
“This project has given me a new revenue stream, and massively reduced my food waste.”- Marielle van Lieshout, mushroom farmer
“The work you do will lead you to the work you do. Just get started, and you’ll find your solutions through the work you do – don’t wait for everything to be perfect.” – designer Doreen Westphal
Collaboration is the mother of innovation! The Food Heroes project connected farmers and food producers with designers, so that they could come up with solutions to combat food waste in the primary sector together. But how do you get these solutions from a prototype design to the actual market? Let’s take a look at the products that 3 couples of farmers and designers created together, and see what they can teach us about creating effective, sustainable and marketable food waste solutions.
With Melanie van Raaij (Innovatiesteunpunt), Ingrid van der Wacht (Dutch Design Foundation), Doreen Westphal (Botanic Bites), Marjon Krol (ZLTO)
“Local governments are ideally placed to bring together the different stakeholders in a city, from hospitality to the care sector and businesses. They are the ones who can motivate everyone to fight food waste together.” – Hanne Heymans, FoodWIN
FoodWIN calls on city councils and municipalities to join the fight against food waste! It only makes sense: it saves you, your citizens and your businesses money, it helps you reach your climate goals, and it’s an incredible tool to help you fight hunger. What’s more: you are in the very best position to connect local stakeholders and inspire action! It’s easier than you think – let Hanne from FoodWIN take you through four steps on the road to minimising food waste in your city.
With Hanne Heymans (FoodWIN)
ZLTO, Too Good To Go
“Campaign design is about knowing where the heart and head of your target audience are at. You need to know who they are and what keeps them engaged to make your campaign about food waste successful.” – Mark De Jong, Zlto
“Keep feeding the buzz – keep it going! Often people are exhausted by the start of a campaign, but you need to keep the momentum high and be prepared for the feedback.” – Mark De Jong, Zlto
“Keep it simple! You want to reach as many people as possible, so you need to keep the message as simple as possible. You should be able to explain it to your neighbour.”
So you want to motivate others to fight food waste with you – but how do you convince them? Mark de Jong from ZLTO and Gilles Mahy from Too Good To Go have plenty of experience to share with you. Let their Goatober and SOS Patat campaigns inspire you to set up your own successful consumer-oriented food waste campaign – their five-step plan makes it nice and easy!
With Gilles Mahy (Too Good To Go) & Mark de Jong (ZLTO)
“I’m the first to say that chefs can do magic, but I am yet to meet a chef who can minimise food waste to zero just by cooking delicious food.” – Jasmien from FoodWIN
“Redistribution is good, but prevention is key. Some foods, like pre-made sandwiches, are very difficult to reuse or redistribute – so make sure you don’t overproduce to begin with.”
FoodWIN helps industrial kitchens reduce their food waste through a very simple action plan: measurement, strategy, and action. Let Jasmien from FoodWIN lead you through the steps you can take in your business, care home, school, … and learn what you can start doing today to reduce and redistribute surplus food. Jasmien has the answers to all your questions!
With Jasmien Wildemeersch (FoodWIN)
signatories of the Food supply chain roadmap on food loss
supports motivated organisations to prevent food waste
creates higher value uses for byproducts and products that are out of specification from the primary sectors
The International Food Waste Coalition is a collaborative farm-to-plate approach against food waste throughout the food services Value Chain.
'Schenkingsbeurs / Bourse aux Dons' is the platform for managing food donations to social organisations.
Horeca Vlaanderen is the sector federation of horeca in Flanders.
The Flemish Government