Shifting our food system under COVID-19

15 May 2020

The FoodSHIFT 2030 project brings together leading food innovation companies and NGOs, municipal governments and research institutes to support the transformative power of citizens engaged in developing innovative and sustainable food system solutions. From the 26th to the 28th of February all the partners in the FoodSHIFT 2030 project, including researchers, civil servants, NGO practitioners and entrepreneurs met for the first time at the Roundtable 1 kick-off meeting in Copenhagen to start collaborating on the realization of a shared vision for a more sustainable food system through the establishment and operationalization of 9 FoodSHIFT Accelerator Labs and 27 FoodSHIFT Enabler Labs in 36 city-regions across Europe.  

A new reality brought about by COVID-19

Since then the world has changed tremendously and Christian Bugge Henriksen, who is the coordinator of the FoodSHIFT2030 project says: “We have all found ourselves in a new reality where we need to address both the direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 on the European food system. Regional producers and food chains are facing existential losses, putting regional economies and employment under severe pressure. Furthermore, the dependencies of most European regions and cities on global food chains and migrant workers, requires a reassessment of current business models. While still struggling to cope with and understand the scale and direction of these impacts on our food system, everyone involved in producing, distributing and preparing food in the private and public sector is seeking immediate support at the practical and strategic level.” 

‘We have all found ourselves in a new reality where we need to address both the direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 on the European food system.’

– Christian Bugge Henriksen, Project Coordinator

He continues: “As a response to COVID-19 we have established a dedicated COVID-19 Task Force, focused on supporting the FoodSHIFT Accelerator Labs in implementing solutions and initiating actions to address the short-, medium and long-term impacts of COVID-19. In the short-term we need to adapt and respond to the COVID-19 crisis by reducing the spread of COVID-19 and supporting the food sector and their workers. In the medium-term we need to mitigate and recover by ensuring continuous access to sustainable, healthy, and affordable food, especially for vulnerable citizens. Finally, in order to become better prepared for multiple waves of COVID-19 as well as other similar or even more severe crisis in the future, we need to start now transforming and rebuilding our food system by increasing its sustainability, diversity, and resilience. All of this is very much aligned with the overall goals of the FoodSHIFT2030 project”. 

Pop-Machina aims to develop a makerspace with circular economy principles at the forefront.

FoodSHIFT Accelerator Labs during COVID-19

Dirk Wascher, who is the Innovation Manager of the FoodSHIFT 2030 project and leading the COVID-19 Task Force has been in close contact with the FoodSHIFT Accelerator Labs throughout the COVID-19 crisis and has compiled an overview of their initial responses to COVID-19. He says: “Some of our city-regions are severely affected by COVID-19, but it is amazing to see their strong initiative and high level of engagement in contributing to concrete solutions. In Barcelona they are 3D printing masks for food sector workers, students in Valldaura are capable of producing almost all they consume and non-profits are delivering healthy meals to health, transportation, and sanitation workers as well as to the homeless. In Athens they are distributing food for free to vulnerable groups and in Avignon the central kitchen is providing food for the elderly and homeless in collaboration with a food bank. In Brasov new brands promoting local food products have appeared, local action groups are supporting businesses in the food sector, online cooking workshops are appearing, and people are starting to pay more attention to the food waste they produce. Copenhagen is experiencing a surge in alternative logistical solutions to local food supply with urban restaurants, bars, and cafés providing delivery services. Furthermore, a large cooperative supermarket chain has opened its existing crowdfunding website to direct sales between consumers and small-scale local producers”.  

Where to Next?

Christian Bugge Henriksen adds “I am really impressed with this level of activity! In the FoodSHIFT 2030 project we are only slightly delayed according to our original plans and everybody is committed to working on their tasks and addressing COVID-19 while most of us are still working from home under lock-down. We will continue our work in the coming months by addressing also the medium- and long-term impacts of COVID-19. The FoodSHIFT2030 project is more relevant than ever, and we are still united in our efforts to transform the European food system to better meet the needs of the people and the planet!”