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Food Waste: Breaking the Habit

It may sound almost ridiculous, but that doesn’t make it less true. While 4.6 billion euros worth of food is thrown away in the Netherlands every year, 1.4 million people in our country live below the poverty line and cannot afford a sufficiently healthy diet.

Educated as industrial designer, Fiona Jongejans believes that design and creativity can play a bigger role in our society today. It can be a catalyst for social innovation and bring people and organisations together. This year, she decided to put her energy into one of the many challenges our society is currently facing. As a young ambitious entrepreneur she has set herself the goal of bridging the gap between food waste and food poverty.

portret Fiona Jongejans

“With only 5% of all the food that is thrown away every year, we could feed those 1.4 million people living below the poverty line with some healthy fruits and vegetables”, Fiona Jongejans explains. “To me, the utter disconnection between these two problems feels totally ridiculous, and I’m determined to bring together the technologies and people out there to bridge that gap!”

Nowadays, the huge distance between producer and consumer has led to a lack of appreciation for the food we eat every day. We as consumers simply have no clue anymore where our apples are grown and where the wheat in our bread is harvested. Meanwhile, on the producers’ side, farmers have to throw away 1 to 2% of their produce: because supermarkets change their orders, periods of overly good weather lead to overproduction; or because some of the fruits and vegetables don’t look the way supermarkets want them to look. Funny-looking vegetables and ugly fruits are considered as waste in our society. Fiona Jongejans argues that we must shorten this distance between producer and consumer in order to give back value to our food and by doing so, to enhance the sustainability of our food chain.

portret Fiona Jongejans

Together with three other young entrepreneurs, Fiona Jongejans has set up the SUR+ project, an online platform aiming to connect local food banks (charities donating food packages) and fruit and vegetable farmers in a very simple and low threshold manner.  Farmers can use this application to donate their ‘surplus’ produce to local food banks. Not only does the initiative help to bridge the gap between food waste and food poverty, but it also creates awareness among food producers about the value of their surplus crops.

But the real cure for the problem of food waste is not just SUR+, it is our behaviour as consumers. And we can all be part of the cure of this problem today: by changing the way we buy, plan and cook our meals.

On October 12th, Fiona Jongejans will take you on a guided tour over the bridge that connects food waste and food poverty so that you too can be part of the cure!

by Anna Verhulst

Team TEDxMaastricht

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