An Overview Of Our Solution
Food Action is a set of self-study materials for households and teams wanting to adopt more sustainable food habits. The materials are freely downloadable in English, German, Hungarian, Italian and Spanish versions: a workbook for participants, and a guide for Food Action Team coaches. Typical results reported: a noticeable reduction in the number of meat meals; and reductions in food miles and waste by 10-15%.
The program addresses all 3 topics where food and sustainability intersect: climate/environment, waste, and health. It builds on highly successful experience of designing and implementing long-term behaviour change programs worldwide since 1990: participants develop new habits which they retain and improve over time (years); each participant influences 7-8 other people to change lifestyle.
- Population Impacted 110,410
- Continent: Europe
Addressing food challenges is essential to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. For instance, food systems contribute 19%–29% of global greenhouse gas emissions; as well as impacting health and questions of waste/circular economy. Substantial improvements in all areas depend upon lifestyle choices and thus upon adult education.
The Food Action program responds to a dual need: the need of adult learners for easily accessible factual and pedagogical support for sustainable lifestyle change; and that of society, given the importance of food in today's policy challenges.
The program addresses all three main areas where lifestyle and food intersect: environment/climate, health, and food waste. This discourages sub-optimization (what is good for one is not necessarily good for the others) and offers different entry points depending on personal and group interest.
The program was developed in parallel in English, German, Hungarian, Italian and Spanish.
Describe the technical solution you wanted the target audience to adopt
Invitations to/recipes for action focus on:
***CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT, eg less meat, fewer 'food miles', organic.
((- Habits: Think seasonal, Meat-free meals, Sprouting, Kitchen harvest.
- Think Footprints: Find farmers, Think travel, Certification.
- Bonus: Cook together, Square-metre gardening.))
***FOOD WASTE, eg storage, using leftovers.
((- At the Store: Think ahead (make lists, check special offers), Smart shopping (bulk buying, funny fruit), Read the labels, Influence your supplier.
- In the Kitchen: Keep track (log), Storage, Preparing (use parings etc.), Leftovers.
- Actual Waste: Donate, Compost.))
***HEALTH, eg organic; less meat, sugar, fat & stress.
((- Quality: Go organic, Less is more, Adbusting, ‘Superfoods’? - Habits: Reality check, Sugar, Paint a healthy meal, Fat: villain or hero? Home cooking. - Stress, or Not: The weight of expectation, Wellbeing comes in all shapes (not going on a diet/losing weight!), Health check.))
Type of intervention
Describe your behavioral intervention
The approach is adult education: a program that is self-instructive. The workbook resembles a cook-book, with recipes for action + some food recipes. It's available online for free downloading; in Spanish and English also as online action programs.
We invite individuals and groups to join a self-study Food Action team, in order to examine the sustainability impact of their food habits and to make conscious lifestyle changes. Invitations to action (see above) are offered for each of the three main topics where food and sustainability intersect: environment/climate, health, and food waste.
Recruiting: Most people care about some aspect of food; it's a matter of framing a program so that many people can each find their own entry point. The inclusion of all three topics - waste, health, climate/environment - is crucial.
Dissemination: the proposed actions include inviting more people to join the program. Social media are used for publicity.
Ideally each Team is coached. Coach manuals are freely downloadable. Coach training is offered in Germany, Hungary and Italy. There are also draft guidelines for engaging a wide circle of community stakeholders in further action. We invite national and community partners to train coaches to support the Food Action teams.
In addition to the workbooks and coach manual (freely downloadable), we offer a program web site: https://fact.globalactionplan.com/en. All materials are in English, German, Hungarian, Italian and Spanish.
As needed, please explain the type of intervention in more detail
Emotional appeals. The focus is on solutions. Problems are described to justify action, and whet the appetite for more; no 'shame-blame'. Illustrations are simple, informative, frequently humorous. The inclusion of health in a non-judgmental way is key.
Social incentives. The program can be followed as a self-study course, with recipes for action that include reaching out to others. But the main approach is through forming Food Action Teams to support each other. Teams may decide to reach out to the wider community. The emphasis is on finding ways to work together, not on 'shame-blame'.
Choice architecture. Actions include well-researched tips for self-help in establishing new habits, as well as getting help from Team coaches and others.
Describe your implementation
The program uses a proven model of behaviour changed, the same as for the EcoTeam program of GlobalActionPlan, delivered in 20+ countries with several million participants.
o Design of effective behaviour-change programs
o Cultural adaptation of materials
o Empowering coaching and writing
EcoTeam research shows: Participating households make many lifestyle changes, The changes are maintained & augmented over time, Each participant influences 7-8 more people. Results from the Food Action pilot were comparable.
Food Action offers step-by-step guidelines for more sustainable eating, using empowering language & other validated components of long-term behaviour change.
Behaviour changes were tracked, engaging several hundred households; more than half reported long-term changes in eating habits. Statistics showed i.a. reductions in food waste and food miles of 10-15%, and a decrease in meat consumption.
A strong enabling factor is the building of local cross-sectoral partnerships engaging civil society and local government (and in some cases business) which continue to bear fruit after the project.
The pilot project was enabled through start-up funding (EU) and volunteer work, i.a. by scientists and methods specialists.
The embedded empowerment model is the major success factor.
The support of participants by trained coaches is another. This is also a limiting factor; tests are being made offering some coach training on-line.
We believe (not monitored) that another success factor is the on-line library of relevant publications for further reading, integrated into the Food Action web site.
The program was developed by an international consortium of civil society/social enterprise organizations. Led by a team at Global Action Plan International (team now operating as Legacy17 cooperative association). The consortium consisted of agado, Germany; Association of Conscious Consumers, Hungary; InEuropa, Italy; and Global Action Plan, Spain.
The pilot project also engaged food/sustainability scientists and methods specialists internationally. Nationally, partners engaged other civil society organizations, local government and business.
The actions proposed in each national workbook version are where appropriate tailored to national legislation and local regulations (eg concerning composting). Local actions may also challenge existing regulations. The materials are also being used as a basis for workshops on public procurement of food.
Three of the consortium members are also engaged in an international 'water' project in schools and have introduced aspects combining food and water to their participating schools.
Who adopted the desired behaviors and to what degree?
The Food Actions were taken by a few hundred households in the pilot project. Experience with other programs shows that the effects are long-lasting, and improve over time (years). Over half reported long-term (habitual) changes. Research with similar programs shows that this is likely to rise; and that households maintain or improve their habits in the 2nd year. Also, each participant is found to influence 7-8 more people to change their habits
Typical figures reported were a noticeable reduction in the number of meals with meat; and reductions in food miles and waste by 10-15%. Further reductions in food waste arise through better buying habits, eg buying 'funny fruit' or last-date produce. Many reported reductions in sweetened beverages in favour of tap water.
Many more people were reached, eg they downloaded a workbook or were contacted in other ways. The total of direct and indirect beneficiaries of the pilot project was 110,410.
How did you impact natural resource use and greenhouse gas emissions?
The areas particularly highlighted by participants were: reductions in food waste and in 'food miles', as well as in the amount and quality of meat eaten.
Most monitoring is through self-reporting before and after taking the program; the reporting is an integral part of the program. This method has been successfully used and verified over many countries and large numbers of participants in the 'parent' program, the EcoTeam program for conscious lifestyle.
What were some of the resulting co-benefits?
The Food Action program was designed to be part of a 'community food resilience' program, building on a stakeholder approach (7 main stakeholder groups identified, of which Food Action addresses the consumer) to build a platform for continuous improvement in community food sustainability, including all the above categories as well as professional development for those engaged in the food regime. Some steps to introduce this thinking are in place, eg in the draft guidelines for engaging stakeholders; others are under development. In the meantime the main focus of Food Action is to impact those elements through personal changes in food habits.
The pilot project was based primarily on public funding with some in-kind contributions. The materials are now readily available at no cost to any group wishing to avail themselves of them.
Market-based revenue would lead to more rapid scaling and seems feasible, not least in the form of hybrid funding: a local cross-sectoral stakeholder group combines to hire the short-term services of a national expert group, for fast and successful implementation. This approach has yet to be tested.
Return on investment
The funder (EU Erasmus+, Swedish national agency) characterizes the pilot project as highly successful. The total budget for all development, testing, publishing, and M&E (5 countries) was €200,000.
How could we successfully replicate this solution elsewhere?
Earlier programs using this methodology have been adapted and replicated in 20+ countries worldwide, with millions of participants. Successful adaptation and dissemination depend on
• A good understanding of the methodology
• Long-term commitment: not a one-off campaign
With those elements, the methodology has proved universally successful.
If you represent an NGO, a social enterprise/SME, or a local or national authority: you need alliances with the other sectors. Also if possible with researchers.
- If you are in Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain or Sweden, contact us: we'll do our best to support you.
- If not, we recommend cultural adaptation of the materials: an adaptation team attends a workshop of 3-5 days, then works in action research mode for 3-5 months. Ask!
Web site: https://fact.globalactionplan.com/en
Downloadable materials: http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/projects/eplus-project-deta…