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Chefs as change agents for sustainability, food security and health

Johannes Jansson/
A growing global population, changing climate have lead to serious questions how to feed the planet in the future.

Lars Charas

A growing global population, changing climate have lead to serious questions how to feed the planet in the future. Solution can be found in 3 areas: 1. Increase food production; 2. Make food chains more efficient and 3. Change diets. In the last 50 years the main focus has been on increasing agricultural output and in a lesser extent making food chains more efficient, but diets have hardly been used as a topic to create solutions. This should be the main focus for years to come.

Chefs are professional consumers and perform the same activities as mothers, fathers and every other person making food or baking a cake. Chefs think about the menu, buy ingredients and cook, but in a professional way with dozens of dishes at the same time, sometimes hundreds of ingredients and in various kitchens.

Chefs and cooks are the shepherds of food cultures and diets and highly influence what and how people eat. From this per-spective chefs are change agents and could help to develop the dietary perspective on sustainability, food security and health. Chefs are change agents that transform the science behind transformation of diets towards the most practical thing everyone does: EAT.

The Nordic chefs and the upcoming Nordic Feed the planet taskforce for chefs doesn’t stand alone, but is part of a global movement run and created by Worldchefs, the global chefs association, representing 100 national chefs societies and over 10 million chefs. The Worldchefs “feed the planet program” wants to make sure current and next generations of chefs can serve sufficient, healthy, tasteful and divers food. The goal is to inspire, educate and activate 1 million chefs in 50 countries towards 2020, in sustainability food security and health. This will position chefs as change agents for solutions occurring in their food society. To reach this goal Worldchefs is setting up 15 so-called feed the planet taskforces on 6 continents that will function as the infrastructure for this culinary driven movement. We gladly invite other organizations to join us and use this infrastructure to share and exchange knowledge and experience, do research on diets, dishes and more healthy and sustainable consumption patterns.

The streets in Stockholm, Oslo, Reykjavik, Copenhagen and Helsinki are stuffed with international cuisines that have direct or indirect relations with sustainability and food security issues throughout the world or have very interesting new perspective that can be used in other cuisines. The Nordic could take a look at the different cuisines and help the country of origin, with knowledge and experience on scientific, as well as culinary levels. Nordic food lab or Stockholm resilience centre could for example help Worldchefs to create new, more sustainable and local diets and food chains in Vietnam, Laos or Bangladesh and find new interesting ways to use vegetarian fed fish in various types of cuisines.

Scandinavia must understand that it can produce food to minimize pressure elsewhere and help other countries in their food security, sustainability and health issues which is necessary to contain a stable and security global community. Chefs and cooks in Africa for example have no excess to culinary school and therefore chefs can’t operate as change agents. There is no influx and exchange of knowledge and experience from consumers, through street venders towards chefs and visa versa. Worldchefs want to set up an online system with education for different levels of chefs from executive chef to street venders and supply hundreds of schools in Africa and elsewhere with modern culinary education. The Nordic could invest in culinary education for development and use the culinary knowledge available in the Nordic countries to develop new inspiration and education in countries lacking an appropriate infrastructure.

The Worldchefs feed the planet movement is stuffed with interesting ideas and visions, waiting to be explored. Many solution are out there, hidden in the immense diversity of food cultures, ingredients and cooking techniques; some near home, in historic or food cultures on other parts of the planet. But cooking is cooking and every household on every part of this planet does the same thing three times a day. We want to invite the Nordic food to excavate this beauty and excavate the solutions millions of these chefs create and help us to translate those solutions to mummy and daddy, sweating behind the stove. Eating is the most fundamental human activity and diet responsible for the healthiness of this planet as well as the individual. I hope the Nordic will focus on diet transformation in international perspective and use the chefs as change agents to supply the beautiful people on this planet with sufficient, healthy, tasteful and divers food.

In the autumn of 2014, the Nordic Council of Ministers invited a group of leading players from across the Nordic Region to discuss their visions for the future of Nordic food. This essay formed part of this initiative #Nordicfood2024