We speak to EIT Food Education Programme Manager Vivien Bodereau and EIT Food Director of Education, Maarten van der Kamp
With headquarters in Leuven, Belgium and regional offices in the likes of Warsaw, Reading and Bilbao, EIT Food is Europe’s leading food initiative, an innovation ecosystem focusing on the food system. It’s a partner-driven network of industry, academia, SMEs, start-ups, and societal stakeholders with the aim of making the food system more sustainable, healthy, and trusted. “Our vision is a world where everybody can access and enjoy sustainable, safe, and healthy food, with trust and fairness from farm to fork,” explains Maarten van der Kamp EIT Food Director of Education. “We do this by working with the brightest minds across Europe, to generate the innovations that will move the needle on the key societal impacts that we think need addressing: healthy diets, and sustainable production and consumption.”
EIT Food works with consumers to address the low levels of consumer trust in the food system – currently there are 21 free public online courses in the EIT Food portfolio – and it also helps to stimulate a more entrepreneurial culture via a range of supports for start-ups. Another key component is education. “The mission of the education team is to attract, develop and empower talent to lead the transformation of the food system,” says Vivien Bodereau EIT Food Education Programme Manager, “and our education programmes are designed to equip talents with the right skills to work in the agri-food industry.
Our most successful programmes include: The Global Food Venture Programme, which fosters the entrepreneurial skills of PhD students working on agri-food challenges through mentoring, bootcamps, networking events and pitch competitions. Successful candidates include Catarina Chemetova, who founded the start-up FiberGlob which converts local waste-streams into a high-quality growing soil for agriculture. The Focus on Farmers programme uses a wide range of professional educational activities to accelerate the uptake of agricultural technologies by farmers. It has already engaged over 6,000 farmers and continues to reach more as it grows. Our online courses have helped over 60,000 learners understand the food system, how to make better food choices and how technologies can contribute to sustainability. With a 4.4/5 rating, Food for Thought is one of our most successful courses running on FutureLearn.”
Such resources can be very beneficial in real terms of food businesses, as Maarten explains: “For our skills-based programmes, we have developed our competency framework of eight key skills to equip innovators in the sector to be effective agents of change. Our framework recognises four competence levels for each of those skills, and we are building a skills analysis engine to support employers and employees alike to support career development. We are also working on a certification system that explicitly recognises workplace-based and informal modes of learning as we want to make sure that such individual learning trajectories can be recognised and used in career planning and HR practices.”
Food safety is also an important element to what EIT Food offers and a number of its courses have a specific food safety focus. The online course Consumer and Environmental Safety: Food Packaging and Kitchenware explores endocrine disrupters and their potential impact on human health and the environment.
According to Vivien, participants will develop a better understanding of how chemicals can migrate from packaging and slowly affect our endocrine health, and how tests can check for safety. “We see it as an integral part of our food systems approach that the students and professionals taking our courses are aware of food safety regulations,” Maarten notes.
With education at the heart of what EIT Food does, it is unsurprising that an ongoing willingness to learn, and to adapt as required, is central to its plans for the future. “A learning mindset is essential for achieving success as well as sustaining it,”
”We cannot rely on our past success or the usual way of doing things if we want to succeed in the future. What can work today may no longer work tomorrow. The knowledge we possess today could also become redundant tomorrow. For all these reasons, we need a lifelong learning mindset, and to be aware of the importance of re-skilling.”
For more information go to https://www.eitfood.eu/education
Vivien’s role is to oversee EIT Food online course portfolio and ensure it runs smoothly. He coordinates the work of the university partners that developed course content, and ensures it is delivered in alignment with the EIT Food approach to learning.
Where are you from?
I was born in Brest, Brittany, France. I have been living in the UK for 7 years, first in Norwich and now in Reading. I spent a year studying at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, Northern Ireland.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I spend most of my spare time hiking or cycling in the countryside and I also volunteer at the local food bank.
Maarten is responsible for all of EIT Food’s education programmes. This involves leading the education team, setting the strategy, working with partners to develop and deliver programmes, and working with stakeholders in industry and the EU.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from the Netherlands, but I’ve been in the UK for more than 15 years now.
Is there a book that inspired you?
Sidney Mintz’s Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History and Melanie DuPuis’s Nature’s Perfect Food: How Milk Became America’s Drink are brilliant for understanding how the food system works.