The Chefs’ Manifesto, launched at this year’s Eat Forum in June, is written “by chefs, for chefs”. The Manifesto seeks to engage chefs in a global conversation around food, working towards the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2) – ending hunger, improving food security and nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture.
The Manifesto is a project of the SDG2 Advocacy Hub, aimed at engaging diverse chefs around the world in the shared goals of SDG2. The Hub sees chefs as an important bridge between farm and fork, influencing what we eat and how we think about food. “Not only do chefs connect producers and consumers on the plate, they are coming up with innovative ways of working and cooking more sustainably,” explains Paul Newnham, the Hub Coordinator.
Newnham is aware that discussions on food and nutrition often “[miss] the conversation around…taste, flavour [and] cultural preference.” With that in mind, he decided to look at the role chefs might play in this global agenda.
Realising SDG2 goals
SDG2 is a call for food systems change, starting a new conversation about food by addressing issues such as undernutrition, food waste and soil degradation. This conversation needs to be “engaging and inclusive” and inspire people to “come to the table and take action,” says Newnham.
“We are trying to drive a narrative that all people deserve good food…To do this means we also fight for all people to have food that is good for them and the planet – this means healthy and sustainable. Chefs curate and connect this message.”
SDG2 seeks to ensure the most vulnerable people have access to nutritious food all year round, ending all forms of malnutrition. Further it also seeks to increase productivity and income for small-holder farmers – who still feed the bulk of the world – and make food systems more sustainable, environmentally friendly and diverse.
Newnham says, “there are lots of chefs already doing great things [aligned with the ambitions of SDG2] all over the world…The challenge is that these projects and initiatives are not connected to…a global agenda.”
Turning the concept into an action plan
Newnham consulted online with over 130 chefs from 38 countries, exploring all of the 17 SDGs developed by the United Nations along with the “issues that mattered most to [chefs] in the language that made most sense to them.” A working group of five chefs and Newnham distilled the findings into eight thematic areas as part of an action plan, designed to function as a guidebook for busy chefs who want to make a difference.
The SDGs are designed to be integrated; progress in one goal often leads to progress in others. In this vein, the thematic areas in the Manifesto address multiple SDGs, taking a holistic, systemic approach to tackling zero hunger.
The thematic areas cover a wide range of topics and concerns including: ‘The protection of biodiversity and improved animal welfare’; ‘Investment in livelihoods’; ‘Celebrat[ing] local and seasonal foods’; ‘Valu[ing] natural resources and reduc[ing] food waste’; and ‘Nutritious food that is accessible and affordable to all’.
The actions suggest the influence chefs can have in these areas, for example, mentoring young chefs, exercising their purchasing power and using waste management practices. Each thematic area is broken down into “What can you do in your own kitchens” and “What can you ask of others?”
Newnham elaborates, “The [next] stage is to…accelerate this work by forming the chefs’ network…We are looking to work with really active chefs to develop localised action hubs [connected to a global framework], because every country and region has different historical, environmental and societal challenges.”
The first action hub is in London and led by chef Arthur Potts-Dawson. Chef Potts-Dawson founded London’s first cooperative supermarket, staffed by the local community and stocked by local producers. The People’s Supermarket opened in 2010 to provide an alternative food buying network to allow people to make their own food decisions.
At an event in the London Hub at Omved Gardens, Potts-Dawson stressed, “We are running out of time. If in 10 years we’re still struggling to communicate ‘sustainability’, we’re out of time. Chefs are expertly placed between what the consumer eats and producers grow.”
The Manifesto capitalises on the position that chefs hold, not only as a conduit between consumers and producers, but as trend setters, role models and activists. Newnham highlights the work done by Massimo Bottura’s Food for Soul, David Hertz’s Gastromotiva and Potts-Dawson’s People’s Supermarket.
Newnham stresses the importance of recruiting a broad range of chefs. Discussions have involved chefs from fine dining restaurants, supermarkets and businesses such as Google Food and Ikea. In 2017, Ikea served food to 650 million people. “If you don’t engage with [companies like Ikea] and just engage with the high-end chefs, you are not going to change the food system,” says Newnham.
The launch of the Manifesto is just the beginning of the conversation. The group is working with the Eat Foundation, whose report on sustainable diets, in collaboration with the Lancet Commission and the Eat-Lancet Commission, provides a “scientific basis [that will] really drive where we focus our energy.”
While they wait for the publication of the EAT-Lancet Commission’s report, the Chefs’ Manifesto team still has a lot to do. This month, they launched the Copenhagen Action Hub focussing on food waste. Further action hubs will launch in India, South Africa and the US where sustainable diets will be the primary focus.
Peruvian chef and social entrepreneur, Palmiro Ocampo joined the Chef’s Manifesto in 2017. Ocampo says he will use the Chef’s Manifesto to leverage his work teaching people in isolated areas of Lurin, Lima to cook with zero food waste. He will also use his platform to promote local producers to the restaurant industry in Lima. “I feel very proud to be part of something so impactful,” says Ocampo.
In 2017, Ocampo and seven other Peruvian chefs created a TV series named Cocina con Causa (Cooking with a Cause). These chefs used their creativity and skills to promote zero waste cooking, regional dishes and healthy diets within their communities in Peru. With millions of viewers, the series showcased cooking techniques and recipes that are nutritious, affordable, tasty and accessible to all Peruvians.
As a global chef’s network, the Manifesto provides Ocampo and his fellow chefs around the world with a platform to share their experiences and empower other chefs to play their part.
There are several ways to become involved with the Chef’s Manifesto. Chefs and cooks are invited to sign up, to participate in events and activities and there is a call for recipes which align with any of the eight thematic areas. Even budding home cooks’ recipes will be considered.
Newnham encourages those who are not chefs to spread the word of the Chef’s Manifesto to local restaurants and food service providers. The SDG2 Hub’s online platform is regularly updated with content and developments in the project.
Merlin Labron-Johnson, Executive Chef of Portland Restaurant and the Conduit, a London members club for the environmentally and socially conscious, says “with the help and support of like-minded chefs around the world, I believe that, as chefs, we have the power to make tangible changes in the food system and as such, it’s our responsibility to do so.
I intend to use the Chefs Manifesto to help my restaurants and other restaurants become more sustainable, to educate myself and my colleagues…I’ve [met] some of the most engaging and inspiring people of my career during [this] short time…and this is just the beginning.
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