Youth Advisory Council Member Wenqin participates in EAT Stockholm Food Forum

The following post was written by World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council member, Wenqin Zhang. Wenqin is 19 years old and lives in Shanghai, China.

I’m very glad to have represented the World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council at the EAT Stockholm Food Forum 2018 on June 11th and 12th. Stockholm is a vibrant city, so was the two-day forum. From famers to politicians, people from different sectors and countries gathered together to share their voices. Our food system today is facing some of the greatest challenges ever. Over-farming, pollution, growing populations, and more, put great pressure on our food system. No single party can solve these problem, but with all the parties working together, we can make this happen.

Thanks to EAT, I got the great opportunity to participate in this multi-stakeholder process and have a deeper insight in food sustainability by hearing from different voices. People here showed diverse perspectives which is very inspiring. Here, I want to share some impressive speakers and our breakout session on ocean food.

The most inspiring speaking to me was Mr. Kernkamp, the CEO of Nestle Nordic. When many of the guests were talking about reducing food waste, he brought a new perspective on utilizing our food the most, which aims at maximizing the use of food from the consumer. Traditionally, farmers harvest what they produce and produce what they predict stores will sell. Stores then sell what they predict customers will buy. Customers buy what they predict they will store in their refrigerator, store what they predict they will cook, and cook what they predict they will consume. A large amount of food waste is producedin the process from buy to consume (see picture left). 

Mr. Kernkamp suggested that if we reverse the chain, consume what we cook, cook what we store, store what we buy, and buy what stores sell, a lot of food waste would be reduced (see picture below). Though this is a bit too idealistic for a market, it’s enlightening. If we stop being picky about our food and insisting on the idea that, “I like to have choices in my refrigerator,” and instead fully utilize the food we have, great change would be made.

Changing from the consumer side requires a shift in our food culture. This is one of the solutions we discussed in the ocean session, and also where most of us as individuals can play our part. One good example came from the chef group in the forum. They are constantly striving to guide a revolution on food culture. As chef Miliken touched on in her speech, if all chefs work together to promote a sustainable food culture, for example, writing books, sharing in their social media, and speaking on TV, healthy and sustainable food may become a fashion. This doesn’t only apply to the chef group, all of us can do something about it because we are all consumers, the final step depends on us. If we start the change as Mr. Kernkamp suggests, if we can change our diet expectations, put lesspressure on certain species, and encourage our family, friends, and people around us to take action, we will get closer to the goal of food sustainability.

One delegate in my roundtable also talked about how they are working on persuading the fishing industry to “fish less now to fish more in the future,” and persuading politicians that sustainability transition is possible, not political suicide. One thing we can’t ignore is that in developed countries there are many large-scale fisheries and farms. They have a greater ability to bear risks and losses on short-term production cuts. But in many developing countries, most of the producers are small-scale fisheries or farmers: 2/3 of the fish we eat is from small-scale fishers and 80% of food produced in sub-Africa comes from small farms. Small-scale producers don’t have the ability to cope with the impact of production cuts. They have to feed their family and are powerless in market and political decisions. I strongly agree with Mr. Jakhar, Chair of Farmers Forum India, who showed great concern for small-scale farmers in his interview with Dr. Saltvedt. Mr. Jakhar suggested in the interview that small farmers often fall out of the value chain. Stakeholders from other sectors need to support farmers to make a change practice, for example, long-term financial support, and win the trust of farmers. Small farmers should be part of the food system and the real value of food needs to be calculated.

Mr. Jakhar said at the beginning of his interview, “the West asked the wrong question, our problem is how can we feed ourselves.” In discussions with other participants, we all agreed many speakers talked about sustainable production and lifestyles, which is very good for our earth, but meanwhile there are still many people going to bed hungry. Besides production, marketing, and consuming, food distribution may be an equally important issue.

Wenqin Zhang 28-Jun-2018