As part of our Sustainable Food Ecosystem, we are investigating how impact entrepreneurs in the food sector and their stakeholders are responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Our aim is to identify what interventions can support a quicker transition to a sustainable food system. Want to add your case to the study? Fill in the survey (in Dutch) before 14 May! Curious about the results? Sign up for our webinar on 25 May!

Crisis as an opportunity to accelerate change in the food system

Supermarket supply shortages due to unusually high demand, collaborative delivery services by entrepreneurs in the shuttered hospitality industry, a rediscovery of local producers and neighbourhood deli shops. These are a few examples of how the COVID-19 crisis and government measures to flatten the curve are challenging a food system already in need of change.

With a wide range of partners that include entrepreneurs, investors, consumers, the government, corporates, bottom-up coalitions, and other organisations, we have been working for some time to steer the food system on the sustainable path of shorter and fairer supply chains, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and restored biodiversity.

But in spite of our continued efforts, the transition to a sustainable food system is not accelerating. Even with all the ingredients in place: viable alternatives to climate-intensive meat and dairy, such as the plant-based ‘cheese’ of Impact Hub member Willicroft, a narrative of change and concrete steps, such as a Dutch government action plan for circular agriculture, and public support for change, such as the Slow Food movement.

What we were missing was a tipping point. Enter the COVID-19 crisis.

It has taken away loved ones, stretched the limits of healthcare, and shrunk our economy, but also given rise to unprecedented solidarity. If we act now, COVID-19 could be the breakthrough moment for the transition to a food system that works for all. This global crisis has amplified the significant pressure on the current system and created space for previously unimaginable alternatives, innovations and collaborations.

Take Support Your Locals, which was inspired by the global #supportyourlocals social media campaign. Impact entrepreneurs in the Amsterdam food sector co-created a delivery box packed with groceries such as otherwise wasted vegetables from restaurant Instock, organic dairy from MOMA, and responsibly sourced sausages from Brandt & Levie. In Instock’s words, “the boxes are going through the roof,” and the Support Your Locals initiative has been rolled out at a national level by Taskforce Korte Keten and Food Cabinet with the support of the DOEN Foundation, Rabobank, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

Through such initiatives, farmers are closer than ever to consumers who previously panicked that shelves were empty of essentials that farmers had in excess (1 billion kilograms of potatoes, anyone?). A delayed gratification economy is also rising as consumers purchase vouchers through the national #helpdehoreca platform to use whenever their favourite eateries reopen.

Although there are plenty of reasons for optimism, from closing the food waste loop to reduced transport emissions and a boost for short supply chains, the end of the crisis is hard to predict. In the Netherlands, the curve has flattened considerably, but a second peak is not ruled out. Large-scale festivals and conferences that are key revenue streams for the foodservice industry are likely to remain banned until a COVID-19 vaccine is available. The hospitality sector is also at a standstill, with only terrace-blessed venues allowed to open in June. How can we successfully navigate these times of uncertainty? By sharing lessons learned and supporting innovative ideas to make the sustainable food system a near-future reality.

Contribute to our report on sustainable food innovation in times of crisis

The ways in which we produce, distribute, and consume food are currently being disrupted on a global scale. We are looking for innovators who are planting the seeds of change in our food system. If you are an impact entrepreneur or part of a company or organisation active in the food sector, whether in production, processing, distribution or retail, join our research into the challenges, opportunities and innovations generated or accelerated by COVID-19 measures.

Your contribution will inform our June 2020 report ‘De voedseltransitie in een stroomversnelling’ (‘The food transition on the fast track’), which is powered by DOEN Foundation, Amsterdam Impact and the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

Want to complete our research? Fill in the survey (in Dutch) before 14 May! Curious about the results? Sign up for our webinar on 25 May and get the exclusive on the first results!