[Interview]: Zo Zhou, Youth Food Movement

Youth Food Movement (YFM), as described by Zo, are an "incredibly passionate bunch who want to change the world through food." The organisation's latest venture, the SpoonLed project, is empowering young people to give food waste the flick - and helping them to encourage their friends to do the same.

Issues around food are among the most pressing challenges for the planet. Food waste, in particular, is something we can all work on in our own lives. Did you know it's estimated that 20% of the food we purchase in Australia is wasted? In other words, if you had 5 bags of groceries, you'd be discarding an entire bag - one fifth of your purchased food. Devastatingly, this renders the natural resources used in that one bag of food - from production, to transportation, to packaging - entirely futile. Things need to change if we want to enjoy a secure, sustainable food future. We need a generation of empowered game-changers who make food-waste a problem of the past.

Cue, Youth Food Movement and the SpoonLed series.

Bella, my fellow 1MW Intern and I were lucky enough to attend a SpoonLed workshop, and meet the lovely Zo, as well as others from the national team. The YFM leaders and food-waste extraordinaries were overflowing with enthusiasm, knowledge, and handy hacks that inspired us to re-think food - and gave us the know-how to implement real change, ASAP.

Image: Bella and I learning some valuable tips at the SpoonLed Workshop.

Importantly, YFM broke tackling food waste into something totally do-able. We were assured that we didn't have to be perfect, we just needed to have some strategies in place for when "shit gets real" (Read: When life happens!).

Image: It turns out where you place food in the fridge is super important!

We loved this actionable, hands-on approach to sustainability issues, and it's something we similarly believe in at 1 Million Women. We know that small actions by a movement of empowered individuals results in big changes, which gave us all the more reason to cheer Youth Food Movement on, and want to know more.

Image: We were challenged to a MasterChef-style 'upcycled mystery box' challenge - we had to cook and serve meals using limited ingredients, ensuring to minimise food waste. Giving food waste the flick doesn't have to be boring and tedious, it can be fun and creative!

Read on for an insider's take on the movement, and to get to know Zo, who expertly manages all things communications at YFM:

M: What is Youth Food Movement and the SpoonLed initiative all about?

Z: The ways our food is currently produced, shipped and then wasted are some of the greatest problems of our time. But the solutions to these problems are also our biggest opportunities. Youth Food Movement sprung up to create spaces for Gen Y to tackle problems head on, by making more conscious food choices and have an amazing time doing it.

That's where projects like SpoonLed come in. It's our newest event series that combines food saving hacks with leadership, empowering young people to lead the change in food waste.

M: What drew you personally to work with YFM?

Z: Food is connected to everything, and YFM is where I can explore those connections with other amazing people who care too.

M: SpoonLed seems to be really focused on changing the way food waste is perceived by making it fun, guilt-free and more social. Tell us about how you're doing that?

Z: First and foremost, we wanted everyone to involve their friends, because changing the future of food waste means changing how we value food on a societal level, and that starts within our own social circles. That's why tickets come in pairs, and each pair goes on to run their own party or event to inspire their friends, family or workmates.

We've also gamified most of the activities that make up each event to keep things creative and interactive.

M: Do you think systemic factors such as public policy regarding food waste needs changing? If so, how can we demand this?

Z: Absolutely! One of the most important first steps is to build a big enough groundswell of people who value food enough to demand change from our governments and other institutions. That's why the social element of SpoonLed was so important to us.

M: YFM have paired with Hidden Harvest, who create amazing meals from food that would have otherwise been thrown out. Any favourite dishes so far?

Z: The first time we sampled a Hidden Harvest peach relish on rescued bread, we were totally hooked.

Image: Hidden Harvest partnered with YFM for the SpoonLed Workshop.

M: It must be incredibly fulfilling to be a part of such an important movement. Have there been any stand out moments for you?

Z: A stand-out moment for me was just taking that first step. It was going to my first event, the Ride on Lunch, and meeting the other people who cared, and were willing to roll up their sleeves to act on their values.

M: What, or who, inspires you to keep working towards a more sustainable food future?

Z: The incredible volunteers at Youth Food Movement who keep on committing, and everyone who comes along to our events, give me massive hope and inspiration. It's knowing that you're very much part of something bigger.

M: How can people be involved in Youth Food Movement and/or SpoonLed?

Z: Beyond connecting with us online or coming along to one our events like SpoonLed, you can be part of the crew who make projects happen. There are usually plenty of ways you can volunteer with one of our chapters across Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Launceston and Western Sydney.

M: What are your top 3 tips for reducing food waste that we can all implement right now?

Z: We produced plenty of tips on the SpoonLed site, but the one principle behind all of them is to give your food the respect it deserves and embrace your creative side. Start asking "what can we make out of this?," whether it's a wonky carrot, or bruised banana, or leftover pasta. And whatever you do, make sure you're asking your mates too.

All Images except banner: Youth Food Movement

Banner: SBS

Read this next: [Infographic] Food waste facts to make you think twice

1 Million Women is more than our name, it's our goal! We're building a movement of strong, inspirational women acting on climate change by leading low-carbon lives. To make sure that our message has an impact, we need more women adding their voice. We need to be louder. Joining us online means your voice and actions can be counted. We need you. We're building a movement of women fighting climate change through the way we live.

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