Solutions to complex problems at the global level can also be found and provided in a youth exchange. It's evidenced by the It Is Good in the Countryside! Foundation's Less Food Loss award-winning project, which sought answers to the challenges of food waste. We talked with Orsolya Kovács, an international project coordinator, and József Bozsits, President.
Organisation: It is Good in the Countryside! Foundation, Szaporca
Project Title: Less Food Loss
Coordinator: Orsolya Kovács and József Bozsits
Global problems in the "language" of youth exchange
József Bozsits: Food waste is a problem at global, European and national levels, especially when looking at the Western part of the world. Through our work, our geographical position – we are in the countryside, in the Ormanság – we can say that we have had to deal with for several generations. This is the attitude of the Central European farmers to food, whether through preservation or sharing. This knowledge still exists today. We showed the Less Food Loss project participants that food does not grow on the shelves of the stores but is the result of a complex process. They could see how to do gardening
garden, keep animals, and they could even try producing food, such as baking bread, making pasta, making jam, which activities are viral these days.
Kovács Orsolya: The aim was also to get practical knowledge and also toappreciate food more. We thought that if they made these on their own, they ‘d appreciate it more, because if they were fighting for half a day to get that pasta ready, they won't throw it away. During the youth exchange, there were practical activities for young people to try, and there were times when the discourse went on at a theoretical level. For example, we had European Parliament-like discussions where participants made suggestions and talked about waste reduction. They also created a 30-day challenge and explored what data was available on the subject. In addition, they could learn about good practices, such as the Food Bank Association's programme, which is also done in the local hypermarket: food with near maturity or bakery products of the day, damaged fruit and vegetables are distributed. In addition to getting familiar with the programme, the participants were able to try the selection and watch the distribution in the village.
József Bozsits: They also got to know animal husbandry: there is a partially gene-preserving farm nearby, where grey cattle and buffaloes are bred; and there is a pig farm where pigs are bred for their meat, and in another village, there is a processor. It was shocking for some of the students at the pig farm to see that animals were practically waiting to turn into meat. Here they saw what salami or canned food are made of; not only the product but also the process behind it or at least a part of the process. With non-formal educational methods, they were given a reasonably serious picture of the way food is produced, and through composting, they could see the cycle. We presented some points along this way, mainly those where waste can occur and methods for preventing it.
Project results at organisational and individual level
Kovács Orsolya: The most tangible result as an organisation is that our cooperation with the local hypermarket continues. To do that, we also needed a store manager who is an open-minded community-centred person.
József Bozsits: By now a special team has been formed, who we know are reliable, doing an excellent job. On an individual level, it is also a learning process. I come from a hugely different background; I am older. I was raised to do things of the best possible quality. Here, it is not only the result that is important but also the experiences gained, the knowledge, the togetherness. I had to understand and accept that the result is not an object: the cake might be burnt, and it will not be a problem because the participant learned how to bake a cake.
The goal is the implementation of a complex, quality project
Kovács Orsolya: It largely contributed to the fact that the first youth exchange of the It Is Good in the Countryside! Foundation was immediately worth spreading, and the second one was awarded a prestigious prize, that we had already gained experience in Erasmus+ at another organisation. I have been active in the youth field since 2010 and Józsi since 2017. Besides the experience, it is also important that the Foundation's goals and values are the same, which makes the project credible. We choose partners with whom we can implement similar programmes along with similar goals.
József Bozsits: I am originally a goldsmith, a jewellery designer, but I also have experience in marketing. For this reason, I am thinking about the complexity of this project, and I find it extremely important to respond to a global problem in the light of local opportunities. I believe that it is essential that the project is rounded up. For example, I create an image, a logo and quality photos during the activities.
Kovács Orsolya: I think that the It is Good in the Countryside Foundation was created because we stick to the quality that we feel is essential.
Enthusiastically towards the future
Kovács Orsolya: We have a lot of ideas right now, enough topics for three exchange programmes... When the Erasmus+ accreditation call was published, we felt that this was absolutely for us. Our projects are always built on each other, and we continue with the finished subjects. We now want to obtain this accreditation because we can outline a long-term plan.
József Bozsits: The fundamental goal of the Foundation is the knowledge-transfer. The locals possess a lot of traditional wisdom, this has a place in European culture. It is motivating that we can bring things to others, even decision-makers, which can be exploited in these difficult times. We have also had applications that have not won support, but this is not the point. The important thing is that the Erasmus+ programme is an excellent framework, both intellectually and financially, to achieve our objectives. We want to continue along this way in the following programme section.
Less Food Loss focuses on preventing food waste and educating people about appreciating food.
The youth exchange objectives are well suited to the priorities of the Erasmus+ youth sector. They have strong relevance to some EU policies, such as the producer-to-consumer strategy or the promotion of the circular economy. The project has shown that non-formed methods can bring issues based on policies at European level close to young people. In addition, local changes and impacts could be seen: the residents of the villages where the exchange programme took place also evaluated the project. They also had a positive experience caused by the presence of young people. The It is Good in the Countryside! Foundation started a long-term cooperation with the local hypermarket.
Agnes Hargitai | Tempus Public Foundation | Erasmus+ Programme Directorate
Photos: Countryside Good! Foundation, Judit Ruprecht and Botond Kovács
Last modified: 17-12-2021