Gezond Leven and EuroHealthNet visit the STOEMP community initiative in the Flemish city of Ghent in western Belgium. STOEMP is part of ‘Gent en Garde‘ that aims to transform the food system at the local urban level by improving access to sustainable, healthy and affordable food. STOEMP networks all stakeholders in the city that wish to address food poverty and to make ‘good food’ (healthy and produced with respect for the environment) available to everyone. The stakeholders aim to collectively identify the key challenges and the best courses of action that the local community can take to tackle food poverty.
On 10 October 2018, Marjolijn Vos from Gezond Leven and Ingrid Stegeman from EuroHealthNet were introduced to some of the specific initiatives that are part of the STOEMP network. These included a food bank and a pilot by a local health centre to engage children in the topic of varied and healthy eating and ‘good food’. It also included a visit to ‘Food Savers’, a social enterprise that was started in 2017 and that collects donations of fresh surplus foods (no later than four days from it’s sell by date) from large retailers. It then distributes this to a wide range of organisations assisting people in need, tailoring the food provided to the specific needs and wishes of the different organisations. Food Savers is, above all, a complex logistical undertaking.
A year into its inception, the initiative cannot keep up with both supply of food being donated by leading supermarket chains, and the growing demand for this food. Working conditions for the previously long-term unemployed that are engaged in the enterprise are difficult, since the work for a large part involves sorting out food in refrigerator-like conditions. The work also involves ensuring that operations meet the wide range of regulatory standards imposed by different levels of government.
It was heartening to meet the dedicated people leading these much-needed initiatives. The discussions also reflected however the grave inefficiencies in our food and other systems. It highlighted why it is so important that health, social and other actors work together to not just to address the symptoms of malfunctioning systems but to also tackle the root causes of these problems.
Learn more about STOEMP and Gent en Garde that were selected as an INHERIT triple-win case study.