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If There Are Still Schools

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

The webinar, If There Are Still Schools was hosted by Dr. Maximilian Spiegelberg who talked about his Future School Lunch project.

The webinar, If There Are Still Schools was conducted by Dr. Maximilian Spiegelberg.

Dr. Maximilian Spiegelberg is a researcher at the FEAST project at the Research Institute for Humanity & Nature in Kyoto. He is interested in Human-Nature relations, integrated approaches, science-policy-civil society interface and also in topics of beekeepers, informal/urban/civic food, and future food with a degrowth/post-growth/etc. angle (especially in Japan & East Asia).


In the webinar If there are still schools, Dr Maximilian Spiegelberg talked about his Future School Lunch project, which essentially tries to answer the following question: ‘What will school lunch in the year 2050 possibly look like?’ The project involved the creation of four future food scenarios and imagined menus, and then turned those into four real-looking lunch sets.

He began by talking about the project’s origins, followed by how they looked at the transition in the niches of the food system and how these niches could be part of a transition to a more sustainable food system.

Within the project, they conducted workshops to explain current situations and movements by painting a picture of the future, which could be attained only through policy changes and reforms. A question addressed throughout was how school lunches might orchestrate better futures.

These workshops were first conducted in Japan where school lunch is a way of motivating kids to come to school. In these sessions, Spiegelberg talked about how school lunch is not only about a diet but is also social with economic repercussions. Since Japanese food is mostly seasonal, the food habits are adaptive to this change. This adaptation in turn not only is beneficial for the human body, but also provides employment to the seasonal farmers. Over time, the food system came to include everyone and represented different regimes through the metaphor of food. In the post-war era, for example, the government provided people and children food but as privatisation and liberalisation gained ground and more private actors got involved, the role of government in food provision shrunk. In contrast, presently the lunch system in Japan is based more on food education along with diet, where both students and teachers participate. Schools usually have a nutritionist working out the meal plan according to different diets.

Working with all these elements, Spiegelberg created a project on an imaginary future school lunch called the school lunch 2050. It is based on four scenarios with two axes. The first axis deals with alternate scenarios of whether the Japanese food system would become more globalised than it is already or more localised while the other axis deals with managing the 1.5-degree climate goal set by the Paris Agreement. The former addresses the problem of Japan’s food imports which make up for 65% of the total food consumption, while the latter deals with the effects of climate change on food habits.

Dr Spiegelberg also talked about how to remain under the 1.5-degree threshold. He suggests that we would have to make major changes in our food consumption patterns. If we fail to do so, we would have to forcibly adapt to changes in our food consumption patterns.

To make this problem more understandable and approachable, Spiegelberg displayed four school lunches on tablets in an open house and provided the audience with a scenario for each one. In another such event, he combined the concerns of localization and climate change by involving local produce that is grown using sustainable farming practices natural to Japan and its weather. Additionally, he talked about how social media could help address these concerns by promoting more plant-based diets grown locally. Lastly, Dr Spiegelberg talked about how the open houses helped them engage with people and gain new information and perspectives on how people perceive food in the food system.

In order to reach greater audiences, Dr.Spiegelberg and his team created digital versions of the food displays created in Kyoto’s open houses during the pandemic. This digital version allowed people to choose a meal and gain background information on these foods.

The key takeaway from the talk was how the food we eat has a greater effect on us than we imagined because it is not just about eating a diet that is healthy for the human body but also for the environment.

Watch the full webinar here :




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