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The abundance of available food products in supermarkets in the western world has created the illusion that the presence of food is evident, and that there is no reason to be concerned about our food supply. Nonetheless, recent food scares (e.g., BSE, swine fever) and scandals (e.g., melamine in Chinese infant formula) make clear how vulnerable our food supply actually is, and that the availability of good food is by no means self-evident.

In the 1960s, many fresh products were delivered at people’s homes. This created personal contact between consumers and farmers or grocers, who had expert knowledge on the products they sold. Nowadays, food distribution in western societies has largely been taken over by supermarkets, where there is less contact with the staff, and product communication is often restricted to package labelling. Hence, we have developed an efficient logistical system that has created a large distance between the producer and the consumer and many consumers have only very limited knowledge of the products they consume.

The amount of time that people spend to acquire and prepare foods has also decreased over time. More and more, food has become something that is just available almost everywhere on the street, to fulfill an instant need. People may not need to make an effort anymore to acquire it (e.g., shopping at an open market versus the standard supermarket), to prepare it (e.g., home cooking versus restaurant or take-away), and even pay attention to how they consume it (e.g., fine dining versus fast food; family meal versus eating in front of the television). If people would realize how much work is involved in providing good food, they may show more appreciation to the workers who develop, grow and prepare foods; they may enjoy their meal more; and they may be more motivated to reduce the enormous amount of food waste that people produce. Hence, the main question of this assignment. is: how can we reconnect people with food?

Lab Director
Rick Schifferstein

Dr. ir. Rick Schifferstein