Take-away messages from the 2019 EAT Stockholm Food Forum

As the EAT Stockholm Food Forum comes to an end for another year, we leave full of ideas, connections and inspiration to continue our mission to cultivate change in the food system. The urgency to act, to create change and to continue working on this is reinforced. Loss of biodiversity, the impacts of climate change, and the health of people across the planet are all big issues and strong reasons to work on food systems’ change. Being in a room with hundreds of other people with a shared mission and purpose was an incredible experience, and a great morale booster for our work. We are on track, folks, and we need you to come on the journey with us.

What we enjoyed the most was that every delegate is working on something exciting and whoever you met was inspiring, from a mum with a bestselling cook book to a professor innovating in duckweed, hundreds of people from around the world are doing their bit to change the food system.

Our highlights of the three days were the following:

·      We took part in the Food Systems Dialogues and look forward to working more on this, hoping to bring it to New Zealand.

·      Biodiversity was rightfully high on the agenda, marking the drastic global decline and the urgency that is needed to curb that.

·      Strong presence of governments and ministers, such as Nepal, UAE (Minister for Food Security), New Zealand, Norway, Sweden all speaking on solutions they are working on.

·      Chefs brought a lively and fun presence to the event, sharing their innovations in healthy and plant based food. A highlight was Paul Newnham and the crew from the Chefs Manifesto and a number of restaurant owners and chefs we met as delegates. And of course dinner by Claus Mayer.

·      Inspiring on the ground work by so many people we met as delegates,  like Fortunatha Mmari who runs Fortune Products in Tanzania, taking sweet orange potato and turning it into a high value product as a pulp for cooking and baby products, helping farmers ensure they have a market and also using sweet potatoes that would other wise be wasted.

·      Seeing the change of large organisations like CGIAR who now have transforming the food system and working within planetary boundaries as the mainstream of their work.

·      The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has launched a circular economy programme for cities and food.

·     Bold business such as Impossible Foods and Food Shot (investment in solutions to save soils and food systems) were present showing what is possible.

·      The strong interaction between sectors of health and environment was refreshing but we still have a way to go to get full understanding of each others’ work.

 We would have liked more from agriculture and food manufacturing.

·      Agriculture as a solution was missing. There was one side event on regenerative agriculture with a strong panel, but small audience. Two farmers from developed countries

spoke on the topic, one in the plenary, which felt token and small. The solutions that farming can bring were missed out. The forum was not balanced in its presentation of that: if one of the key tenants of changing the food system is to reduce the number of animals, then helping farmers transition is surely a solution that needs to be high on the programme?

·      The role that organic farming and food plays was also missing, given the reduced impact that it has on the environment and the growing market share, seemed strange for it not to be included, aside from statements from city officials (e.g. City of Copenhagen’s organic targets).

·      Seemed to be a disconnect between statements of need for healthier food but yet the production/manufacturing stage of the food system was missing from the speakers and the programme. That is where many of the issues with unhealthy, over processed foods sit. Therefore would have been good to have big food industry present for a more balanced discussion.

That’s a wrap from us at the Forum. We will continue to follow EAT’s work and those of the amazing people and organisations we met. We’ll be applying as much as we can to our work in New Zealand as we vow to think bolder, be bigger and continue to cultivate change in our food system. Stay with us on that jour