Want to start a food revolution? A food movement? It’s not difficult. I know because I started one from around my kitchen table. At first it was just a few friends eating, drinking, and discussing food issues. Now, we’re an international organisation with countless volunteers, an educational academy programme, an international Food Film Festival, and many other projects besides.
First, a bit about myself. I studied Political Sciences at university in Amsterdam and supported myself with part-time jobs in various restaurants around town. As a politics student, I had a special interest in issues relating to sustainability but I quickly realised that the moment I entered the restaurant, the focus on sustainability disappeared. As a chef I wasn’t contributing to a better world, I was trying to survive in the organised chaos that people call a professional kitchen. We didn’t bat an eyelid as duck liver pate and exquisite chocolate desserts went out the doors.
Then, one day, the chef handed me a massive steak of tuna and asked me to prepare a small starter for some clients. As I sliced up the massive piece of fish into a few choice cuts, and discarded the rest into the dustbin, I realised the absurdity of the situation. It was on this day that I started on the road to becoming a food revolutionary.
Duck liver terrine may be mouth-watering, but it creates terrible suffering for the duck who is force-fed to enlarge its liver. Tuna might be one of the tastiest fish, but it is so over-fished, the piece you are eating could well be one of the last. That chocolate dessert? Do you know where the chocolate is produced? Is it Fairtrade? Did the workers who picked the cocoa beans get a good wage? Do we care? What can we do anyway? Well, we can wait for the world to develop fairer systems of food production, or we can start a movement ourselves.
I decided to find a few people who were also passionate about food, who agreed, like me, that food systems needed to change. I looked for people my age, who were from different backgrounds. We worked with farmers, journalists, students and scientists, and this gave us a broader perspective and a bigger network.
With the group signed on, I planned a public event and dared to make it big! Our first event was an Eat-In. We invited 250 young people to a dinner that was cooked by celebrity chefs. We asked local food heroes to get involved, so we became very appealing to the press. It was a great success and we felt we had achieved something significant. That’s a feeling I can highly recommend.
So, how do you go about starting your own? Like me, what you need is a group of motivated, likeminded people. Then start planning an event. As you’re unlikely to have any serious funding, you’re going to have to garner external support. This is not as difficult as it sounds. Ask local entrepreneurs to help you by giving money or making a donation in-kind. Remember your event is going to be a great success and they are going to be happy that they were involved! Things will now start moving! When people see that you can organise and subsequently make things happen, things automatically become easier.
Set your goals, be creative, and come up with different projects that help you achieve your bigger picture. Divide your volunteers and resources into project teams and think about who would be interested in supporting your work. In Amsterdam, the Ministry of Agriculture supports our campaign on the Common Agricultural Policy. A national bank supports our Academy project, and the Food Film Festival gained the interest of all kinds of companies and organisations.
Your motivation and enthusiasm will mobilise the group around you. By creating something engaging and fun, others will want to help and get involved. By showing people that it is possible to do things for ourselves, that as young people we can create an alternative system, you will inspire people and they will want to join you.
Go to it!
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