Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Reflections from EAT Forum 2019

I had the honor of attending EAT forum 2019 last week and have a few reflections.

The EAT Forum is dedicated to sustainability and transforming the food system. It was founded by Gunhild Stordalin, a very wise woman wanting to create change. 1000 experts from all over the world were invited, so can you imagine how elated I was to be one of those invited this year?!

GAIN + entrepreneurs from Africa
There was a broad range of topics so I learnt immensely about the world beyond mine. One side event focused on targeting investors for emerging companies through GAIN - a non-profit organization based in Switzerland. The beginning of the presentation pointed out that a third of the population is malnourished which includes 150 million children, a grave number. Then three entrepreneurs from different parts of Africa introduced their companies focusing on fresh plant foods, meat replacements and infant formula. I was inspired by Veggie Victory, a company started by Hakeem Jimo from Nigeria who is currently looking for an investor for his plant-based product. He emphasized the need for these kinds of products along with intensive marketing strategies to change the alarmingly meat-centric climate.

I also listened to Quorn's history unfolding onto the UK market. Their emphasis was on protein so they invited a nutritionist to explain how Quorn's protein stacks up in the plant-based sector using science-based articles.

How Do You Serve Three Billion Hot Lunches in India
During the same time-slot was an event that I would have liked to have listened to: How Do You Serve Three Billion Hot Lunches in India by Akshaya Patra.

Unlocking the Alternative Protein Market
At the Unlocking the Alternative Protein Market, it was helpful to brainstorm to see what challenges companies face when introducing new alternative foods. Different groups focused on different issues and it was useful to hear other perspectives at the end of the session.

Introduction to EAT
Gunhild Stordalin gave an inspiring speech at the main event, mentioning Greta Thunberg's efforts to create change, citing that the time to act is now, and that we all can do something. Johan Rockström presented the dire condition our world is in and Jess Sanders focused on the nutritional aspects of the EAT-Lancet report. There were various representatives from places like UAE and Norway discussing how they've implemented the EAT-Lancet report in their countries.

Sustainable Proteins + diversity
Most interesting was the discussion Go Nuts: Sustainable Proteins and the Dietary Shift where while the screen was filled with pulses, the focus was on all of the other alternative protein sources like insects, duckweed, mycoprotein (Quorn), lab meat and seaweed! I really appreciated the diversity on the stage with moderator Modi Mwatsama's approach when interacting with the audience and allowing women's voices to be heard.

China and marketing vegetables
Another voice that resonated with me was Jen Leung and the way she described efforts to change China's attitude on meat by marketing vegetables for special occasions instead of meat. It was interesting to hear that an action-packed advertisement with Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn't an effective marketing strategy as one with local celebrities. Like Modi Mwatsama, she emphasized inclusivity and cooperation when trying to create positive change.

Impossible Foods
There was a lot of accentuation on meat alternatives so it was fitting that the American company Impossible Foods' founder was interviewed and revealed his mission to reduce America's obsession with meat through their Impossible burger by 2035.

EAT dinner
The EAT dinner had inventive dishes and a few pulses too, so it felt right to be there. I particularly loved that it was an opportunity to walk around and mingle and even take selfies ;)

Global junk food
The events hosted by Sandro Demaio on the final day were also really interesting -- he first introduced photographer Gregg Segal who traveled to various parts of the world and photographed children with a week's worth of food around them. It was so alarming to learn how globalized junk food (the density of refined wheat products loaded with sugar) has become and that many children around the world eat the same kind of diet, whether it be in USA, Europe or India. The photographs were beautiful, vibrant and effective.

Challenges when implementing healthy foods
Next came a panel discussing malnutrition and their various endeavors in Japan, New Zealand and Liberia. It was interesting to hear Mameni L. Morlai's challenges in Liberia when promoting breast milk in a world where companies with infant milk formulas have the money to rule the food world.

Food waste
Food waste is a matter close to my heart; I feel pain when I see food being thrown away so listening to Ronni Kahn's efforts in Australia to rescue wasted food was inspiring. Her bubbly presentation locked everyone in the audience so when she said that we can all make a difference, we listened: everyone has a teaspoon: the fire is huge and a teaspoon 🥄 is little but there are many of us and we all have a teaspoon 🥄

I've always known that diversity in the foods (and people!) is essential so when chef Selassie Atadika made spice cookies using just teff flour, it felt just right, and perfectly delicious as the audience got to taste them!

Prince Hussain Aga Khan's photography
Perhaps the most effective presentation at the EAT Forum for me was when Prince Hussain Aga Khan narrated diving into the deep oceans to photograph the beautiful creatures of the sea and how the scene in his stunning photography has changed from magnificent, vivid animals to magnificent, vivid animals tangled in plastic. His storytelling made me very emotional and brought more urgency to the situation. The problem with plastic is real, it's contaminating the ocean, killing these lovely creatures and we need to do something about it immediately. We don't have another earth to turn to after we finish destroying this one!

Thank you to the EAT team!
The EAT Forum has been an eye-opening platform for change and I feel grateful that I could be a part of it. There needs to be more emphasis on pulses as the world tries to shift its obsession with meat and hopefully that will be more apparent next year, I can't wait! A massive thank you to the EAT team who worked ridiculously hard to make all this possible and also for inviting me, hope to see you all again next year! 

Take care,


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