Congratulations to Jasper Wellbeing founder Shane Cooke for winning Quota’s first ever Eat or Delete this month.
Shane joined Christian Reynolds from the Centre for Food Policy, City University of London, and Mark Driscoll who runs Tasting the Future, to battle it out for the best food systems solution.
When it came to the voting, Quota’s professional community plumped for Shane.
Eat or Delete – which we describe as a cross between Blind Date and the Eurovision Song Contest – is our way of adding a little spice to sharing professional breakthroughs.
We recorded the event, it’s up on Quota TV.
Christian Reynolds kicked off proceedings saying, “Unsustainable production and consumption of food constitutes one of the biggest environmental threats to our planet.
Approximately one third of all food produced never reaches a human mouth
“In the EU it is estimated that about 88 million tonnes of food is lost or wasted each year, equivalent to about 20% of total food production.
“Approximately one third of all food produced never reaches a human mouth.
“About 70% of that happens either in households, food service and retail.
“Food waste is also associated with a significant economic cost, estimated to be around 143 billion euros in the EU each year.
“This is a significant cost to producers who have to leave food unharvested in the field, producers who leave food discarded in products that do not adhere to market specifications, retailers who lose products due to spoilage in transport or throw away unsold products, and households who waste edible and inedible food.
“The prevention of food loss and waste represents a significant and necessary step to meeting our UN 2030 climate change target of a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
“Food waste highlights inequality in the system, while 22 per cent of the EU’s population have limited access to sustainable and healthy diets.
“It’s also a major indirect contributor to biodiversity loss. Food waste can be a gateway issue. People across the political spectrum have proposed solutions to food waste and that is really exciting because it means we have alliances throughout the food system.”
Systems should optimise numbers of people fed and nourished per hectare
Mark Driscoll’s contribution went like this: “I’m arguing that a pervasive and powerful narrative dominates our global food system. It shapes how we value food, how it is grown, processed, marketed, and actually eaten. It drives and dominates research, investment policy priorities and practice of the most dominant and powerful actors across our food systems including governments, investors, businesses and our research establishment.
“This prevailing productivist or Feed the World narrative focuses on the quantity of food and calories produced and is based on assumptions that we need to double food production by 2015, maximise yields and base our food production on export orientated models.
“On the surface this does sound reasonable and plausible. But it’s a world-view and a mind set that I believe is flawed and continues to reinforce food systems which are no longer fit for the 21st century. It continues to drive greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, obesity and malnutrition.
“Much of my work focuses on a need for a fundamental narrative and mind set shift predicated on optimising tonnes of a particular food per hectare to one based on optimising numbers of people fed and nourished per hectare.
“Too many organisations focus on specific and isolated policy and practice shifts. I’ve lost count of the number of international reports on food, written by the same international experts, containing a multitude of recommendations most often time ignored by national governments and businesses and disconnected from the needs of local communities and real lived experiences.
“It’s my view that if food system transformation is to be achieved we need to put more emphasis on narratives. I use a concept called sustainable nutrition as a tool to help businesses, funders and other organisations.
“Sustainable nutrition is based on regenerative agricultural practices, healthy sustainable culturally respectful diets which are key to the restoration of planetary and human wellbeing. I believe that food systems businesses government and research bodies need to focus on strategies which develop sustainable nutrition outcomes from production to consumption that improve planetary human and animal health which are so interconnected.”
We forget we’re human, we need care and support
Shane Cooke then weighed in with: “[Hospitality is an] industry that can achieve anything and we prove it repeatedly. We’re an industry of achievement and ambition driven by people with the will to be the best. But what is the collateral damage of that achievement?
“There is one we forget about because we care about delivering excellence daily. We forget about us. We forget we’re human. We forget we need care, energy and support. We are driven by high performance but there’s a word should be at the start and that word is healthy: healthy high performance.
“Imagine what we can achieve if we are healthy and we have the right tools to deal with adversity. We as individuals are number one. Not the clients, not the product, the humans that deliver it every day.
“Healthy happy people are the key to enhanced performance and enhanced success in all departments from service, food sustainability, business development and food waste innovation. So what do you think should be first on the agenda? Presentee-ism, absenteeism, lack of productivity, high staff turnover, high care costs? Maybe the stress in your workplace led individuals to drink and drugs.
“We as an industry are spending money on EAP (employee assistance programmes), cancer assistance, mental health first aid. While these are all great they’re all reactions to crisis.
“The answer is challenging the status quo as a wellbeing company within hospitality by getting to the roots of the industry, the root of wellness and the roots of effective change. That affects everybody in the business and not the few.
“Wellbeing is a journey. We have a start, a middle and continuous action.
“We start with strategic necessity, which is values, culture, leadership training, change management, flexible working processes. And then we move onto personal support which is mental health first aid, resilience training, stress workshops. And then, added value which is massage, gym memberships, health checks, health insurance.
“According to my research, we generally always start from added value and a lot of the time we do not move on from there and that’s counter productive.
“I’ve never really known any company values in 22 years [in the hospitality business]. Imagine if every hospitality business had values at the forefront of their business and that was the driver? What is your why as a company and as an individual? Does everything align? It’s not easy as it sounds and that’s why Jasper is here to change hospitality – a wellbeing company ran by hospitality veterans.”
Development around research and innovation is funded by the private sector with specific interests
Follow up questions illicited the point from Shane Cooke that hospitality needs wellbeing case studies to be conducted.
Mark Driscoll said that it was great to see Part One of the UK’s National Food Strategy, but integration across governments at all scales, local, national, international, is needed. He added, “I’ve been twice bitten so I’m thrice shy about government delivering on the recommendations.
“Once Part Two is out next year government has got to respond in the form of a white paper.
“But having been involved in the green food project a few years ago and Food Matters Food Vision work where basically a strategy process came to nothing I’m very sceptical about how the government will respond.
“We really need to move from a siloed approach to a cross departmental approach to government policy.
“The biggest thing governments need to think about is how we invest and incentivise agriculture. We need to focus more on public money for public goods not just quantities of food.
“Businesses have a really important role to play. The biggest challenge is the integration across a business. There are often separate strategies for health, for nutrition you get sustainability strategies, brand marketing strategies. Sustainability through sustainable nutrition really needs to be embedded across business DNA.
“Increasingly development around research and innovation is funded by the private sector with specific interests. We need to pull back some of that and get governments to really invest in regenerative agro-ecological, nutrient dense, health giving foods and agricultural systems.”
Danone is an example of a business that grasps the nettle in regards to regenerative farming
Christian Reynolds added that food waste is seeing governments such as the EU introducing financial mechanisms for food loss, food waste, valorisation the transformation of inedible food waste into high value products.
“These need more finance because they’re really risky. They’re tech,” he said. “Those financial mechanisms have been missing in food waste for the last few years to scale it up. How can the consumer be held accountable? I don’t think we should be making the consumer guilty even though 40% of food waste happens in the household.
“The rest of the system has an impact that makes the 40% happen in the household. How you sell food, you prepare food in a restaurant, how you transport. Those other parts of the system that are outside the consumers control result in household food waste. So if you’re thinking of government, the consumer, industry, actions in other parts of the chain need to happen. The margins in hospitality need to be enough to enable wellness programmes to happen, for example.”
Mark Driscoll said businesses that have been able to change the narrative, adding, “Regenerative farming and agricultural systems is starting to occur. Danone is an example of a good business that really grasps the nettle in regards to regenerative farming.
“Business is starting to understand that doing less harm to the environment, society or to health is no longer good enough. Good businesses today are going to have to put more back into the environment and society than they take out – it’s sometimes referred to as net positive business.
“Quorn are starting to think around their role as a net positive business. There are thousands of great examples of new emerging business models. Farmer owned models, small innovators not just in Europe and North America but parts of India, Africa, South East Asia. There’s a lot of innovation starting to happen around what I could call orphan forgotten crops that can provide nutritional requirements for local populations rather than rely on six, eight key globally traded commodities. So innovation is happening. Business is faster than governments. Government is the biggest missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle. Much more needs to be done.”