The Thought For Food team likes a challenge – encouraging innovation in agriculture, and changing the way we eat. Having just closed the latest Thought For Food Summit in Rio, Brazil, we caught up with Program Director, Jared Yarnall-Schane, to ask what drives Thought For Food, and how young people can join the movement towards a more sustainable environment.
Q: What is your message to young people with an interest in agriculture?
A: Everyone must eat! We all eat food three times a day. Food is inherently impactful; we must engage with it every day, it impacts our communities and how we come together, for example to enjoy a meal. We believe that if you want to get to social impact and environmental change, food and agriculture provide a tremendous way to do that while bringing people together to tackle a common challenge.
Q: Why do we need to change the way we currently eat and make food?
A: Our population is growing, our climate is changing, and our food preferences keep evolving. To make sure there is enough safe, healthy and affordable food, we need to make significant changes to our food system. People want their food system to be transparent - from who grows it to how it arrives in the grocery store. They want food that is good for them and the planet. And perhaps most importantly people all around the world want food that tastes good.
Q: What is your vision for the future?
A: Our big goal is to help feed 9 billion people by 2050. We believe in the potential of young people: that’s why each year we put out a call for young people aged between 18 and 25 to change the status quo and the way we currently produce and manufacture food. This year we had the challenging task of selecting ten amazing finalists from 800 teams in 160 countries. This just shows the scope of the talent out there in the world. Participants came from Australia, Brazil, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Their solutions range from materials made from surplus poultry feathers to substitute polystyrene used in food packaging, to a water quality monitoring system specifically developed for refugee camps and areas with limited water access. We believe that by supporting innovations like this, we can change the future and build a better, more productive but environmentally sustainable way of living.
Q: How are you doing things differently at Thought For Food and why?
A: We think young people are naturally entrepreneurial and challenge the status quo. They possess the passion to implement the things that need to be changed. We use different and interesting approaches to engage young people: we have 200 next-generation innovators coming together to learn as part of our annual Thought For Food Summit in Rio, Brazil. We build skills such as masterclasses, where we bring in inspirational people to talk about fundraising, storytelling, and how to use data to enhance impact. We take participants through an intensive accelerator programme, where they receive mentorship and training to further develop their concepts by gathering customer feedback, building their organizational structures and sharpening their business models. We believe a mixture of these supportive techniques can inspire people towards change.
Q: What lessons did you learn from your recent Summit and what take-aways can you share?
A: Good ideas come from everywhere. This was proven to be true as we saw teams from all over the world take the stage as finalists in this year's Thought For Food Challenge. We also have continued to show that young people care more about collaboration than competition, with several of our young and growing startups opening their data and processes to other entrepreneurs. In addition, we learned that food and agriculture companies are excited to engage with the changing food ecosystem. They want to leverage their supply chain, connections, and experience for impact and to make the world a better place. We encourage readers to join us!
This is part of a Young Champions of the Earth series highlighting inspirational work of young people around the world. Find out more about the Young Champions of the Earth, powered by Covestro.