West Flanders is more European than you might think. In this series, the journalists of the future show where you can find Europe here. Section 3: How do we reduce food waste and create more jobs at the same time?
By journalism student Amy Van Parys
Reducing food waste, helping people in poverty and creating jobs at the same time: It seems like the perfect combination. The Flavor project seeks to achieve these goals with EU support.
In 2015, the UN established the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are 17 goals that the world must reach by 2030 to make it a more beautiful place. Some of the goals are, for example, that CO2 emissions should be reduced to zero by 2050 and that everyone should have access to adequate and safe food. Another goal is to consume and produce more responsibly. It also means that food waste from stores and consumers must be halved. The best solution is to give these food surpluses a new destination, and Flavor is committed to this. “This is a European project where ten partners work together across three countries: the UK, France and Belgium,” says Fay Vanclooster, project staff at Flavor Brugge. The EU funds 60% of Flavor, which has made it possible to start a number of pilot projects. In total, this amounts to almost 2.6 million euros. Partners such as the city of Bruges are also investing in the project.
Thanks to these European grants, cities such as Bruges and Mechelen have set up distribution platforms that make it easy to collect and store food. MEP Kathleen Van Brempt is enthusiastic about Flavor: “This is definitely a fantastic project. As Europeans, we throw an average of 173 kilos of food in the bin every year.”
“Flavor has two activities and two goals,” explains Simon Martens from project manager HERW! N. “Our partners collect profits from institutions such as supermarkets, auctions and companies. They store it in department stores and then distribute that food among people in poverty. “In addition to food distribution, food processing is also an important activity that Flavor focuses on. Fresh products such as vegetables and fruits do not have a long shelf life. To prevent waste, they are processed. foods for soups, sauces and dried vegetable packs, for example. “It gives the food a longer shelf life, and then more can be done about it,” explains Martens.
On the other hand, Flavor also wants to create employment by giving people opportunities in the social economy. “We work with people who have a harder time finding a job. We try to guide them to the ordinary labor market, ”says Martens. The project has already created dozens of jobs.
Fay Vanclooster mentions a third ambition: to keep CO2 emissions as low as possible: “Because our organization collects food, it saves them from the mountain of waste. She also collects the profits in one go, so that the companies do not have to go out on their own. It also saves CO2 emissions. ” “Every tonne of food you collect means a CO2 gain of 2.5 tonnes,” adds Ewoud Dutellie, coordinator of Foodsavers Ostend.
There is also a clear effect in Flanders: the enormous growth of distribution platforms. Foodsavers is an example of this. “It is a network that stretches from West Flanders to Limburg. It now has twelve distribution centers as in Westhoek and Ostend, “says Martens. The Flavor project will be completed by September, but Martens is convinced that these organizations will continue the work of processing food surpluses and creating jobs in the economy.
Last year, Foodsavers collected approximately 2,500 tonnes of food in Flanders. Foodsavers Ostend collected no less than 103 tons of this. Ewoud Dutellie: “We started from a social grocery store. Due to the increased demand, a food distribution point has been set up for the Middle Coast. ” Dutellie sees room for improvement in the future. “We can make our operations even more sustainable. It is important that we focus even more on other players in the market, for example by strengthening the relationship with the food banks.” Both organizations have a common goal: poverty reduction. “We do not see the numbers of food surpluses rising, but the poverty figures are rising, among other things, due to rising energy prices and the war in Ukraine.”
“We know that raw materials, including from agriculture, are becoming scarcer due to climate change, but also due to geopolitical tensions,” said MEP Kathleen Van Brempt. “Focusing on our own food production and shorter chains is an important first step, but it is also important to tackle food waste. Such projects are therefore an urgent need. ”
The European in Amy Van Parys
“My name is Amy Van Parys, I’m a journalism student at Howest and I come from Deinze. I have a passion for radio and music and would like to make it my job in the future. I’m also good at languages and I also enjoy to work with it. Perfect for journalism! I chose Flavor out of my own interest. The project is committed to reducing food surplus while tackling poverty. Something I strongly support. I try to be aware of the quantities I buy and try to throw out as little food as possible. ”
This series was created in collaboration with Howest and Europe Direct West Flanders.