Food is fun and science is sexy

Fact: we cannot live without food. Nevertheless, a lot of people from the Western world know little about where their food comes from or how it is processed. They take food for granted and think agriculture is boring. As a result, they are not enough aware of many issues related to global food production. Why should they worry about food waste, hunger, pollution or the unsustainable use of natural resources?

How is this possible? Or more importantly: How are we, the next generation, going to fix this? During the ICYA (International Conference for Youth in Agriculture) organised by IAAS World (International Association for Students in Agricultural and Related Sciences)  future agricultural leaders aimed to find answers to these questions.

First, if we want to change the way youth approach agriculture and food production, we have to inspire them to do so. We have to inspire young people to get engaged in the topic. We should aim to bridge the gap between youth, politics and farmers.

How are we going to achieve that? One of the speakers of ICYA (International Conference for Youth in Agriculture), Niek D’Hondt of Reagent and Ekoli shared his view with the audience. He believes that the answer lies in tackling the boring image of science, the so-called ‘ghost of science education’. This is where ‘AgriCOOL’ comes in: a project developed by ICYA participants. The aim of the project is to counter the migration of farmers to urban areas by showing people that agriculture is attractive, food is fun and science is sexy!

Second, governments and other institutions should take more responsibility. A lot of eating habits have their roots in culture. Habits can change via educational systems. For example, this research shows that teaching young children healthy and sustainable eating habits help make them more healthy and sustainable choices in the future. Another ICYA project group of proposed to develop an educational food computer game named ‘Foodsteps’. The computer game teaches young children via an interactive and attractive way about different aspects of the food chain.

Third, consumers themselves also have an ethical responsibility. We should encourage consumers to be more critical in their choices. When people are more critical and aware of their ethical responsibility, it is possible to change the food system from the bottom and up.

One group of ICYA participants had an interesting view on how to achieve more critical thinking among consumers. They claimed we should not aim to give consumers access to ‘right’ information neither protect them from ‘wrong’ information. Instead, we should enable consumers to make informed decisions by themselves. As one of the participants said: “Your ‘wrong’ might not be my ‘wrong’”. They came up with the project: Follow the FoodFink: an informative and fun food trail throughout the city developed for the whole family.

In sum, people should stop taking their food for granted and start asking questions. The awareness of the value of food and our ethical responsibility for a healthy, fair and sustainable world should increase. Ways to achieve this goal are engaging youth in agriculture and food production processes, promoting healthy and sustainable eating habits and raising more critical consumers.

“We might need a lawyer once in our life. But we need farmers every day of our life.” – Ana Postek (Vice-President of Communications, IAAS World)

Blogpost by Melissa De Raaij, #ICYA2017 Social Reporter – melissaderaaij@gmail.com

Images: courtesy US Department of Agriculture.

This post is part of the live coverage during the #ICYA2017 – The International Conference for Youth in Agriculture, organised by IAAS (The International Association of Students in Agricultural and Related Sciences).  

This post is written by one of our social reporters, as part of their training on social reporting, and represents the author’s views only.

The #ICYA2017 social reporting project is supported by GFAR, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research.