Food Waste Challenge : don’t waste your time, just go for it !

Never heard about the Food Waste Challenge ? Don’t worry, we got an interview with Joris Depouillon, co-founder of FSE Network and coorganising the event !

We often talk about food waste but what is it exactly? And who’s the most responsible for it?

1/3 of all food goes to waste. Estimates say that 7% of all greenhouse gas emissions are linked to food that is not eaten. And everyone in the supply chain is responsible! The image hereunder gives a good overview of what parts of the supply chain are the most responsible both in the global north and south. Against popular beliefs, it’s actually in the production and consumption (i.e. the consumer and the Horeca) that most of the food is wasted.

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When and how was the FSE (Food Surplus Entrepreneurs) Network created?

I still remember the first time I went dumpster diving in 2012. Quickly over the hedge, I had two big containers for me, all full of fresh vegetables, fruit, dairy products and meat. Happy but also shocked, I could hardly believe my eyes. A year later, I started studying as a sales engineer. I knew I couldn’t work 60 hours a week and make a career in something I didn’t believe in so I decided I would help the world with food waste. I start travelling for a year in order to meet durable and social entrepreneurs and, at the end of my trip, in 2014, I did an assignment for Confitures Re-Belles, a startup that makes jam from fruit surplus. It appeared that the most useful thing I did for them was giving them some contacts and introducing them to other entrepreneurs who did the same kind of work elsewhere in Europe. And that’s how the FSE Network was born: the European network of innovations for food waste.

So what do we do? FSE Network reduces food waste by:

  1. Supporting new and existing food waste innovators by giving them visibility, opportunities for exchange and learning, as well as by facilitating collaborations.

  2. Supporting and inspiring citizens to develop new innovations.

  3. Supporting governments to reduce food waste by inspiring and co-creating new innovations and to create and/or implement plans to reduce food waste. 

  4. Supporting companies to reduce food waste by inspiring and co-creating new innovations.

How is it actually innovating?

FSE Network is a social enterprise. We have the goal of reducing food waste (social/environmental goal) and construct a business model around it to allow ourselves to create more impact. What we do is different cause we actually help young people to create new projects themselves by organizing Food Waste Challenges. Those young people become true changemakers. They see that they, themselves, can create change in the world. Instead of going on with a job they don’t believe in, they do something that makes a difference. That’s really important that people know they actually can change things! We also support existing changemakers, of course, by allowing them to exchange with each other and collaborate.

What do you do exactly in Belgium?

FSE Network is based in Brussels and most of our activities take place in Brussels or around, like the Food Waste Challenge Masterclass. We also manage a growing network of changemakers and entrepreneurs around food waste. There are more and more projects popping up around food waste in Belgium :entrepreneurs, NGOs and so on. We support them by linking them and giving them advice. We do consultancy in Brugge, Ghent and Brussels. We help those cities to reduce food waste. In Brugge we are facilitating the Brugge Food Lab, a stakeholder platform on sustainable food. We also organized a event called “Feeding the 5000” there.

You’re organizing the Food WasteChallenge at the end of August, can you quickly explain to us what it is?

On the 26, 27, and 28 of August 2016, FSE Network and Act4Change are organizing Food Waste Challenge Leuven Innovation Weekend, with the financial support of the Province of Vlaams-Brabant and Fonds Duurzaam Materialen- en Energiebeheer, managed by the Koning Boudewijnstichting. The Food Waste Challenge helps 50 young people build their own sustainable startup to reduce food waste in just one weekend. These bright minds will be challenged to develop solutions on three main themes: bread waste, food waste at home and food waste in agriculture. They will learn and experience what is food waste, be inspired by existing innovators reducing food waste and will develop their own idea together. You can find more information and register here and watch a video of a previous FWC here.

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What do we have to do to participate? Are there conditions?

You just have to register via this form ! The weekend costs 35 (students) or 50 euros (professionals), and if you convince friends to register, you can even get a price cut and a free food waste beer made from bread surplus ! We are aiming for young people who are interested in food waste and could see themselves setting up a project to decrease it.

Can we participate even if we don’t have a idea to develop or if we don’t feel like being an entrepreneur?

Of course! The most important thing is that you’re willing to go through a process of 3 days to develop an idea (yours or someone else’s)! It will be a weekend full of energy, inspiration and action!

Would you say it’s easy, nowadays, for young people to create a wealthy business (or wealthy enough to allow them to do it for a living) that would reduce food waste?

 It’s definitely possible. There are plenty of examples inside and outside of Belgium. One of the entrepreneurs who will present themselves is Joran Vuye. He called me a couple of months ago that he has an idea. A month ago, he quit his job to concentrate fully on Re-Fruit. Re-Fruit goes to the farm and get the ugly, crazy, weird and forgotten vegetables and then sell them directly at a reduced price to the consumers. Re-Fruit saves 13 tons of vegetables and fruit from waste every year.

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You already have organized some FWC weekends in Belgium and elsewhere, where do you feel it works best?

We’ve organized FWCs in the Netherlands and in Brussels. I think it works best in countries with an entrepreneurial spirit. In Belgium I cannot say that’s an essential part of our culture, but we’re trying to change that with those Food Waste Challenges!

Have you already had some participants whose ideas were really unusual and surprising?

At Food Waste Challenge Amsterdam, we had a really cool team that won the challenge: Non-Guilty Pleasures. They are making desserts from bread surplus. The team was very international: an Austrian guy, a French guy, a Mexican and a German. Both the Austrian and the French guy independently went on with developing the idea. Franck is now in the South of France teaming up with a bakery and talking to some big companies to introduce his desserts there. Isn’t that great?!

Among the participants, are there many people working in the food sector and who want to find a way to reduce the food waste produced by their company?

 It’s a mix. Last time we had some participants working in the food sector. But also, there are many young people who want to do something useful in their job and are looking to start something themselves. It’s a real trend in our society. They are young professionals, students, creatives who are looking for a job that brings more sense in their life. They really wanna see social participation and sustainability becoming the new DNA of every company. We notice through their asking for pieces of advice that food waste is a subject that matters to those changemakers.

For those who are interested but can’t make it in August, have you other weekend planned in 2016 or 2017?

For the moment, we don’t have exact dates, but, of course, it’s really the goal to have other FWCs coming up.

Do you organise any other food waste events?

In Brugge, we’ve organized the first Feeding the 5000 there. An epic gastronomic meal serving 5000 people with food surplus. You can read a bit more about it here. Furthermore, we’ve organized Food Exchange Cafés, events where people can come and exchange food with each other (more information here).

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I'm always curious about new things, I love learning and I'm a creative person. That means I need to use my creativity to feel good and happy. That's why I've created Culture Remains and my other website, Naïra.

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