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Gen Z demands overhaul of European food system

Young people across Eur-ope are demanding EU-wide changes to transform the food system to be more sustainable, including pro-moting 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, sup-ported 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 this week.

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:

n Target 25 per cent 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;

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

n 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;

n 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;

n 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;

n 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.

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 per cent) think we need to take urgent action to make the way we produce and consume food more sustainable.

Meanwhile, two-thirds (66 per cent) feel that our current food system is destroying the planet, and that the situation is only getting worse, as 61 per cent 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 per cent) saying it has become more important to them in the past 12 months, while 65 per cent 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 per cent saying they believe this to be sustainable.

This is followed by growing food locally (74 per cent), organic farming (72 per cent) and plant-based foods (70 per cent).

Meanwhile, half of young people (50 per cent) 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, Future-FoodMaker, 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 inn-ovation across the food value chain – from farmers, manufacturers, and retailers to governments, NGOs and consumers.

“As we use these recommendations to drive conversations with stake-holders across the agrifood sector, we must ensure no one is left behind and everyone’s voice is heard.”

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