TRANSMANGO is a research project, so it is obvious that we spread the message of our research to our colleagues in the academic world. However, TRANSMANGO is about food and security in Europe and vulnerability of European citizens, today and in the future.
One group of citizens we therefore can’t ignore in the project is youngsters. How do they think about food security, about healthy food and sustainable food systems? What kind of future food system do they dream of, and what kind of food system do they fear?
Today, I met with 17 young students in a secondary school in Leuven. We talked about the overall perception of the importance of food in their everyday life. While you may expect youngsters to love fast food, and easy snacks, the truth seems to be different. The majority of the youngsters pay a lot of attention to their food, where it comes from and how healthy it is. But when we go in depth on some topics, some background is missing.
Several pupils prefer organic foods, as this is more natural. So, what does that mean, more natural food? “It means, you don’t use toxic products”. Asking for more details on what that really implies, ended up in a sound of silence.
A similar situation appeared on the issue of vegetarianism. Almost half of the group is vegetarian: for animal welfare, because mum cooks this way, because is healthier. We took some time for the latter argument. Why is it healthier? And what is the difference in animal proteins and plant proteins? Again, silence ..
This opened the door for a dialogue on food for the future.. What are alternative sources of high protein foods. Insects and seaweed were tasted although for some, this type of gastronomy was a bridge too far. Would this be the food of the future? Maybe.. but overall, there was certainly no belief in a radical shift of food habits. 3D printing of food? “No, that will never taste nice”. “It can’t be fresh or healthy.” “It will taste like plastic”.
And what if these teenagers would lead the country, the nation, the school, the food industry? “I would really try to reduce waste. It is awful how much food is wasted, while some people are hungry”. But in my opinion, the easiest answer could be so close to reality. “Why don’t we just have a fruit vending machine at school?” The other 16 class mates agreed, 0.5€ for a piece of fruit, that would be a good investment at our school..