Time to change the plate:
The challenge of communal catering
For those of us fortunate enough to have a choice, cutting out animal-derived protein - whether in part or altogether - is top of the student agenda (never mind the rest of us). The main reason that Berlin's university canteens are swapping currywurst and schnitzel for seeds and pulses, explained The Guardian last month, is climate change. From October this year, four different universities in the capital will offer a menu that's 68% vegan, 28% vegetarian, and 2% fish-based, with a single meat option offered four days a week.
Leading the conversation will be Dinah Hoffmann and Patrick Wodni of Kantine Zukunft, an organisation that's tackling the problem of providing sustainable, attractive, nutricious, delicious food within instutional budgets - and it's not just a matter of choosing "organic". A radical change in institutional food, they believe, is capable of influencing Berlin’s entire food culture to the benefit of the wellbeing of all its citizens. "Berlin’s institutional kitchens serve several hundred thousands of meals every single day, creating an opportunity for fundamental transition in nutrition and agriculture in a highly influential metropolitan area.” Lessons learned in Berlin could provide a blueprint for how, wherever we may live, we can link our own eating habits to the health of the planet.
Joining the group to discuss their pioneering work will be Toronto-based chef and food-activist Joshna Maharaj, who has been working with communities, organizations and institutions to provide good food that meets high standards of sustainability and hospitality within a limited budget. Take Back the Tray, Joshna's book on social gastronomy, was published in 2020. Also at the table, adding her own experience of working with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, will be chef and culinary educator Caitríona NicPhilbin, one of the 2020 OFS Young Chefs. With an MA in Gastronomy and Food Studies from the Technological University Dublin to the table, she has recently relocated to Belfast.