Monday afternoon, the first class of the week is over. Lauren leaves the lecture hall and crosses the street to another university building. She’s excited, because today she will pick up her first vegetable bag. Like hundreds of students in Antwerpen and other cities, she can’t wait to discover what vegetables will be on the table this week. Will it be celeriac or spring onions, turnips or carrots? But she’s sure of one thing: they will be fresh, locally grown, seasonal, and organic. And they will be cheap.
Three months earlier. It’s the beginning of winter and Lauren has just arrived home from university. After what seemed to be an endless bike trip through the cold wind, she’s happy to finally be inside. She puts a ready-made pasta dish with fine beans and fresh tomatoes in the microwave, takes out the trash for tomorrow’s pick-up round, and settles on the couch with her steaming dinner.
Surfing through the channels on TV, her attention is caught by a topic on the 7 o’clock news about the new minister of Migration addressing the issue of winter shelters in the city. Something I might be able to use in our debate on social inclusion later this week, Lauren thinks.
While forking through her pasta, she continues to follow the news as the cameras move to Kenya where food is once again getting scarce. According to one of the villagers being interviewed, his entire harvest of fine beans is being shipped away at a low price, leaving him not enough money to feed his growing family. Lauren is about to move on to another channel for her favourite series, when the penny drops…
She looks down at her plate, where there’s just a couple of beans left. Where are these actually coming from, she thinks. I can’t remember seeing any beans on the fields when I took the train home this weekend — or tomatoes for that matter. She is pulled from her thoughts as the news anchor takes over again and switches off the TV. Time to take out her laptop and solve this question!
Over the course of the following weeks, Lauren finds out more about the situation of our food system. How our demand for variety has led to a continuous supply of out-of-season products, like strawberries in March or fine beans in December. How all those products have to be shipped to us from around the world, and the emissions they cause on their way to the store. And how this is sometimes causing food shortages in the very countries where this food is being grown.
At first she felt a bit lost and disconnected, but she soon started to discover some guidelines to help her in her search, like the vegetable calendar. She even found there’s a group of young people putting together weekly bags of fresh, local, and seasonal vegetables and fruits, right here in her own city. What’s better, they are distributing them just across the street from her lecture hall. With Spring finally breaking through, she can’t wait to see what they have in store for her today!
Are you wondering what other things Lauren found out? Have you already found a veggie bag group in your city? Or do you want to learn how to set one up and offer people like Lauren more responsible food?
Saturday 06.04.2013 at 15.30-17.30
Spring Agora Rhein-Neckar
Written by Mathieu Soete, EnWG and Policy Officer on Sustainability