As the world slowly emerges from the COVID pandemic lockdown, many are wondering what lessons can be learnt from this global collective experience – and what we should do differently – to build back better.
The food shortage we experienced earlier on in the year was a warning sign – an alarm bell that we cannot afford to ignore. Our food system is not secure, and COVID has shown us our weak spots. What we do next is going to be crucial.
Title: Learning From Lockdown: Lessons From Our Tatler Community Author: Tara Sobti Photo: Ricky Lo Source: Tatler Hong Kong
PDF: save the article
Pushing my trolley around the supermarkets’ empty shelves a few months ago – I couldn’t help but replay the scene from World War Z where Brad Pitt stocks up for doomsday. The pandemic has revealed our food system’s vulnerabilities – from the food shortage caused by panic buying, to the over-dependency on imports as food source, and lessons to learn from both history and science-fiction.
The silver lining is that food security is very much on the agenda, the shock is real and we have witnessed the first wave of effects. Availability, access and use all need to be catered for before we could call ourselves food secure. We need to diversify our food sources to ensure a steady supply of food. We also need to look at access points to make sure that healthy and safe food are affordable and accessible. Wet markets are part of our social infrastructure that needs to be considered alongside urban planning.
A risk-prepared city like Singapore has set the target of producing 30% of its own food consumption by 2030. Despite being smaller, they are producing 10% of their own vegetables while Hong Kong is at 2% – there’s much to be done, and now’s the time to prepare.
Sourcing local and seasonal has become the response to the disruptions seen in our food supply chain. More than just a temporary solution, local production should be part of the Urban Resilience, city’s planning – contingency for future risks.
More than just reducing carbon footprint and supporting local economy, shortening our food supply chains means that our urban food system could be less vulnerable to global distribution networks. With planes grounded and workers unable to harvest, having local produce at hand gives us a fighting chance.
Thank you to the Hong Kong chapter of Food Made Good for inviting me to speak on the topic of Urban Resilience and to Heidi Spurrell and her team for this great write-up!
Event: Food Made Good Sustainability Breakfast Series/ Food security in an insecure climate: going local and seasonal Organisers: HK Food Made Good Panel Members: Daisy Tam (Hong Kong Baptist University), Heidi Spurrell (HK Food Made Good CEO) Link: https://foodmadegood.hk/
The food shortage we experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the vulnerabilities of our food system. In Hong Kong, we are overly dependent on imports and have little buffer in our supply chain. As a city we only have 15 days of rice reserve (link in Chinese) compared to 3 months in Singapore.
This interview reminded me of the talk I gave at Microwave last year where I looked at the future of food through the lens of sci-fi, looking back, the Apocalyptic Feast doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore. How do we prepare for a crisis? What do we eat when there is no food on the shelves? The panic buying that we observed during the beginning of COVID was an indication of the limited choices we have – shops and supermarkets are the only food source for most urbanites.
Our food system is made up of a global infrastructure of supply chains, even the simplest meal is most likely to use ingredients from all corners of the world. What this crisis has shown us is that we need to know the stressors in our food system, and we need to look for alternatives. This is one of the reason why local agriculture cannot be phased out, food security has to be part of the city’s agenda.
So proud to see Breadline featured alongside other innovative projects selected to represent the New Asia in Tatler’s launch issue. In every field and discipline, there are those who break the mould and I am pleased to be considered part of that wave.
I am a strong believer in interdisciplinary and collaborative research, I think only through working together can we develop new perspectives and understandings, and to begin to find new approaches and solutions. As an academic in the Arts and Humanities, I vehemently reject the term “ivory tower”, as I constantly ground myself in the field, working closely with NGOs and those in the front-line, running and collecting bread with fellow volunteers. During the recent pandemic, a core group of us continued to run the streets, to better understand how the virus has affected society’s most vulnerable.
If I were to have a say in what the future looks like, I would like to believe that we can build a better society, one that is more equitable and sustainable, and only then can we be optimistic.
Title: The New Asia: the most powerful, influential & stylish people to know in 2020
Publication: Hong Kong Tatler Photo Credit: Ricky Lo. Styling: Dora Fung and Christopher Kim
Other Credit: Hair: Dickey Blue; Make-up: Megumi Sekine; Make-up: Assistant Hiromi Brown
Having been asked to reflect on my journey so far, I tried to distil the guiding principle of my research on food systems. I was reminded of a conversation I had with a Michelin star chef, I said “go for the good, not the best” to which he asked “but why?” Because “the best serves the few, but the good serves many”. That would be my definition of a good food system.
Very pleased to be featured alongside other “women who inspire” in celebration of International Women’s Day 2020. #IWD2020
Breadline web app is Hong Kong’s first crowdsourced food rescue platform that connects donors with volunteers and charities so surplus food can be delivered to those who need it. We want to give old bread new life!
The platform streamlines processes to make it easier for everyone to do their part. Volunteers are able to choose their own runs and tell their NGOs how much bread they have collected. In addition, bakeries can let volunteers know on the day how much bread there is to make every run count!
What would we eat after the apocalypse? What future foods would be available and in what forms? In this playful take on the future of food, I threw an apocalyptic feast and invited my audience to a tasting menu of reconstituted eggs, vacuum packed steaks, and canned fruit and freeze dried vegetables.
Moving between fiction and science fiction; utopic and dystopic futures I discussed the urgent question of food security and what could be done to become more resilient. This talk is also inspired by the sci-fi short story Benjamin Hall and I co-wrote called the “Circus of the Inconspicuisine” which you can read on this site too.
Show: Microwave International New Media Arts Festival – E.A.T Panel Members: Rodrigo Guzman-Serrano (Host), Daisy Tam (Hong Kong Baptist University), Taeyoon Choi (artist), Adelaide Tam (designer), Susan Evans (change maker). Venue: Hong Kong Polytechnic University Link: www.microwavefest.net
The future of food is closely tied to the future of our cities. In this television interview on RTHK 日常8點半, I framed my understanding of the urban food system in the context of sustainability and sustainable development. This is an issue not just for food scholars, but city planners, farmers, architects, community organisers and everyone in between!
Breadline was featured at Nesta’s conference held in London this year. My research “Networked Intelligent Actions – crowdsourcing food rescue” was one of the awardees of the collective intelligence grants.
The conference aptly named “21st century common sense: Using collective intelligence to tackle complex social challenges” brought together researchers and practitioners to present an array of projects on CI – its application from human rights violation to decision making processes and voting behaviours.
Breadline demonstrated how collective intelligence can go beyond just the crowdsourcing of information. In my example of food rescue, the platform coordinated operational efforts, connecting volunteers directly to donors and sharing real-time information on the ground.
The result? Breadline improved volunteer efficiency by 4 times !
Event: 21st century common sense: Using collective intelligence to tackle complex social challenges Author: Daisy Tam Organisers: Nesta UK Panel Members:
Kathy Peach, Head of CCID, Nesta
David Baltaxe, Chief Intelligence Officer, Unanimous AI
Yvonne McDermott-Rees, Professor of Law, Swansea University
Daisy Tam, Assistant Professor, Hong Kong Baptist University
Vito Trianni, Researcher, Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies of the Italian National Research Council (ISTC-CNR)
An opportunity to discuss the step-by-step logistical issues of food rescue and my web application Breadline on RTHK Radio 1 programme Climate Watcher 大氣候.
While many are aware that throwing away food is not a sustainable solution, the reality of sorting, collecting and donating surpluses still require small efforts. There are many things we can do to help the donors, volunteers and charities ease the process.
In this Cantonese radio interview, I share some of the insights gained from building Breadline – from understanding stakeholders concerns to volunteers collecting surplus bread in Hong Kong.
Science fiction has always been a rich site for our imagination of possible futures – where innovations make their conceptual debuts and our fascination and fears of science and technology manifest in utopic or dystopic articulations.
It seems like a logical place to explore the future of food. How are we going to feed the world? What system could be used to tackle waste? And how can we change the perception and behaviour of people?
This fiction/ non-fiction piece is a collaboration with my fellow sci-fi book club elder Benjamin Hall. We invite you to join us in a world where matter is trapped in time, and phasefoods is all the craze – the Circus of the Inconspicuisine beckons!
Breadline has been chosen as one of the five innovative ideas on sustainability in Hong Kong, and thanks to the feature, I became an Eco Hero.
Speaking to HK Tatler for their Sustainability issue, I introduced Breadline to Christian who asked me to tell the story behind the crowdsourcing web application that connects volunteers to bakeries to deliver surplus bread for charities.
Who holds the answer to the issue of food waste? No one and everyone! In this interview with Noreen Mir, we chatted about my latest work Breadline – what it is, how it works and how this whole interdisciplinary project came to be.
Breadline makes its debut! This is the first crowdsourcing food rescue web application in Hong Kong that connects donors with volunteers and charities so surplus food can be delivered to those who need it.
The opportunity to develop this long-awaited idea has been made possible thanks to the Fulbright Senior Research Scholar Award, and I am so happy to see it come to fruition at MIT, what a rewarding experience at the Urban Risk Lab!
In my talks, I have often spoken of the benefits of food donation or food rescue. In this video, I followed one of Hong Kong’s leading food rescue organization – FoodLink to share a meal at one of their beneficiaries – Grace and Faith Church in Kwun Tong.
A meal is more than just food – it becomes an opportunity to share, to care, to rest and to come together.
08/03/2019·Stan Diers·Comments Off on The Future of Food and the City: Security, Sustainability or Resilience?
Hong Kong and Singapore are often considered twin cities on the global stage – it is similar in terms of size and wealth. In this long awaited opportunity to speak in Singapore, I presented the case of Hong Kong. I also learnt a lot about Singapore initiatives from Saidul Islam, Associate Professor of Sociology at NTU, whom I met at MIT when we were both visiting scholars. The cherry on top of the cake is meeting the Foodscape Collective, a group of like-minded scholars, students, activists who are working towards a more food secure Singapore.
Event: The Future of Food and the City: Security, Sustainability or Resilience? A critical view on Hong Kong’s Urban Food System Organisers: Nanyang Technological University Singapore School of Social Sciences & Environment and Sustainability Research Cluster. Venue: Nanyang Technological University Singapore.
Very pleased to be invited to speak on the topic of urban farming at the launch of the Rooftop Republic Academy at the Business Environment Council.
My view is that urban agriculture is not a thing of the past, many cities in the world are experimenting with different modes of growing food in the city as a way of building resilience. Initiatives like the Rooftop Republic Academy is a forward looking initiative that trains future farmers, farming can be a vocation and not just a hobby!
What did you say? A hackathon on food security and resilience? How could I not jump at the opportunity to participate in this exciting event hosted by Northeastern University’s School of Journalism in Boston!
Over the weekend, designers, data scientists and story tellers from a range of disciplines and industries came together to tackle the vulnerabilities of our food system. Bringing a bit of Hong Kong to Boston, my team “Gourmet Disco Apocalypse” looked at how weather events affect food prices. Powering through the weekend with pizzas and hackathon essentials, our team came in second!!
As part of the Better Business Innovation Series, the American and British Chamber of Commerce (Amcham & BritCham) brought together key players in sustainability, from start-ups and NGOs to established businesses, members of government, academia and the investment community to explore the challenges we face in the Food and Beverage sector.
Hong Kong has the highest restaurant to population ratio in the world which is why the F&B sector is the key player in the push for change. Donating surplus food is the first step to better use our resources and in this talk, I took the opportunity to call on the audience to make an effort and “lead the change”.
Fellow speakers include:
Leah Birkby, Live Zero, on zero waste grocery shopping
Jingyi Li Blank, Director, Mintz Group, on due diligence in the food supply chain and the role of money
Dr. Ulrich Boettger, Director, BASF Hong Kong, on the science of tomorrow’s food sustainability
Sonalie Figueiras, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Green Queen, on eco-wellness
Michelle Hong, Co-Founder, Rooftop Republic, on urban farming in Hong Kong
Kary Lau, Program Manager, Food Angel by Bo Charity Foundation, on food rescue and food assistance
Prof. Daisy Tam Dic-Sze, Assistant Professor, Hong Kong Baptist University, on the ethics of food
David Yeung, CEO at Green Monday, on the global food revolution and plant-based movement
Sophie Le Clue, Director of Environment Programmes at the ADM Capital Foundation, on sustainable seafood
Bobsy Gaia, Ecopreneur & Founder of MANA!, on being a sustainable brand
Dr. Merrin Pearse, The Purpose Business (facilitator)
Event: The Future of Food – Challenges to the Food Security & Sustainability Agenda Organisers: The American Chamber of Commerce and British Chamber of Commerce Venue: Campfire Tai Koo, Hong Kong. Link: https://amchamhk.eventbank.com/event/8127/
A wonderful occasion to discuss LIVE on air on the effects of food waste in the city. My position has always been that its food, not waste, so how do we create a more effective and equitable urban food system? Looking at food rescue NGOs and the challenges they face, I share a few thoughts on how we could better use our resources.
An opportunity to discuss the state of Hong Kong’s urban food system. How do we begin to build a stronger, more food secure city? From production, to distribution and consumption, I offer my thoughts on the subject.
Event: -綠色創富 – 譚迪詩 談糧食供應問題 Host: 余遠騁 William Yu, World Green Organisation Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=br-llImLScw
03/03/2018·Daisy Tam·Comments Off on Hong Kong Zero-Waste Champions on South China Morning Post
Featured in South China Morning Post as one of six women leaders of Hong Kong’s “zero-waste” movement. I spoke to Lauren James about my research journey – from the humble beginnings of working in Borough Market to my current projects at Hong Kong Baptist University and beyond.
The article featured the vertical garden, where I grow edible greens with my students as part of the Food, Culture and Society course I teach at BU. I started the micro urban garden 5 years ago as an exercise to turn waste (plastic bottles and vertical space) into a resource and also to encourage students to learn about our food system. Education is key to long term change.
I gave an interview in English for the Solvak journal Kapital which published an issue on waste earlier this year. Lukaś Likavčan posed questions on the contemporary socio-economical patterns of production and consumption in the context of Hong Kong. I wish I could read the piece!
Title: Sme spoločníci pri jednom stole, nemusíme plytvat Author: Lukáš Likavčan Source: Kapital Photo: Mateij Gavula PDF: Save the article
Speaking to a packed room of students at City University was a great way to kick start 2018! Introducing students from the School of Creative Media with diverse backgrounds in Art, Animation, Photography Digital Video, Games, Installation to the study of food was as challenging as it was rewarding. The talk “Securing our Food System” invited the audience to rethink our food system.
Event: Hong Kong City University, Creative Media Colloquium Organisers: Daniel Howe (School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong) Venue: School of Creative Media, City University. Link: https://sm2703.wordpress.com/2018/01/
The festive season is a time of celebration, and unfortunately also a time of excess. As Christmas draws near, Laurie Chan from the South China Morning Post invited me to share my thoughts on sustainable consumption.
The truth is there is no easy solution. Avoid over-buying and plan ahead for left overs might tackle the problem on a household level, but the amount of restaurants that have over stocked because customers did not make good on their reservations also create waste. Food donation is key, but that should not be a justification for our habits of consumption.
Title: ‘Tis the season to be … sustainable” Author: Laurie Chen Source: South China Morning Post Photo: Edward Wong Link: www.scmp.com PDF: save the article
As part of the Interdisciplinary Unit of their IB curriculum, this group of Grade 7s spent the whole week learning about food security. Speaking to a group of 60 well-informed and curious minds was quite the challenge – what a lively discussion!
Despite the fact that there is no such thing as Food Studies in Hong Kong, I’m glad to know that the topic is slowly making its way into various curriculums!
Event: Interdisciplinary Unit Organisers: Cindy Fok, Hong Kong Academy
The Zurich University of the Arts hosted a talk series on the topic of Ecologies: Matters of Coexistence for their graduate students coming from Switzerland, Singapore, Taiwan, China and Hong Kong as part of their Transcultural Collaboration programme.
Consuming Nature was a dialogue between myself and Artist Tsang Tak Ping with a good 60 people in the audience thinking together about our relationship to nature and what it means to co-exist.
Food’s Future Summit is a one-day event that brought together practitioners and entrepreneurs who are keen to change the way we eat. My panel “The Big Picture” kickstarted the day by looking at the bigger picture of global food trends, the challenges we face and alternatives that might change our food future.
Kudos to the organisers for making this a low-waste event, with refillable fountains, collapsible Tupperware, and on-site composting, this was certainly one of the most thoughtfully planned event I have attended!
Ahead of the Food Future Summit, I was asked about my hopes and fears for the future. Issues of overpopulation, intensive agriculture, over consumption were my list of usual suspects.
What threw me was the final question of what is my favourite food, as an advocate of sustainable food systems, I had to choose my answer very carefully. Find out the answer in this interview and be apocalyptic ready!
This has been a long-awaited workshop. Taking place in the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, this seminar brought together academics and researchers working in the field of urban resilience. It was a great opportunity to share our proof of concept that Tomas Holderness and myself have been working on for HKFoodWorks.
The seminar considers the potential of the crowd to both disrupt and compliment physical urban processes and addresses how to further generalise the geo-spatial intelligence enabled by new technologies and open source software. We will consider the political and ethical implications of this potential shift in terms of the potential transformation of citizenship and participatory constitutive possibilities and also with regard to the implications of more processed-based, relational and real-time framings of problems themselves.
Event: Putting the Crowd to Work Organisers: Tomas Holderness (MIT Urban Risk Lab) Panel members: Daisy Tam (Hong Kong Baptist University), David Chandler (University of Westminster); Tomas Holderness (MIT Urban Risk Lab) Venue: MIT
In this January, Niftie’s grocery store that sells things which would have been thrown out by a mainstream supermarket, finally arrives in little old Dover. Shelves are piled with food well past its best before date. Niftie’s has also expanded online where it competes with Approved Food, a discount specialist that stocks 2,000 items which are surplus or close to their best before date. For the Real Junk Food Project, a charity which operates a chain a “pay as you feel” cafes using surplus food, school food programme and sharehouse food stores in order to tackle the problem of food waste and hidden poverty in the UK. And this new wave of militant grocers gives hope to both you and me, perhaps sustainably.
Hongkongers collected an estimated 8,400 boxes of Calbee crisps, just a week past their “best-before” date, after they were found dumped at a Tuen Mun refuse collection centre (Hung Cheung Road Refuse Collection Point). Some internet users alluded to the lack of a Good Samaritan food donation law in Hong Kong in order to explain why the owners of the snacks may have discarded them.
Around 67000 rolls sweet gummy candy were abandoned in a Yuen Long (Tong Tau Po Village) dumpster because they are just past or close to their “best before” dates. One neighbour came quickly and saved as much gummi as she could. Later she might share those very close to ‘best before’ date of this month with other neighbours. As these events came quick and fast in this city, Mr Edwin Lau, Executive Director of The Green Earth claimed that it’s been caused without the implementation of a “Good Samaritan” law and quantity based system for municipal solid waste charging.
Food Sharing Hong Kong is a project initiated by Hang Shuen, a female reporter in her 20s who returned to Hong Kong after working in Germany for three years. The concept is simple – a community fridge that welcomes individuals to leave or take edible food in order to reduce food waste. The idea has taken off, spreading from its first location in Sham Shui Po (Papillon), to Yau Ma Tei (3 Tak Cheong Lane) and also North Point (Ahimsa Buffet) in just three months.
After my TedX talk on Hong Kong’s Food Security, many were shocked to learn how vulnerable Hong Kong’s food system is. Quartz Journalist Echo Huang followed up with an interview to get the low down on how cities like Hong Kong, actually feeds itself.
An opportunity to speak to an audience of 1200 at the Academy of Performing Arts – the largest Tedx event here in Hong Kong!
In spite of its status as Asia’s gourmet city, Hong Kong is in fact NOT food secure. “How secure is food? The case of Hong Kong” gives a quick overview of our urban food system and urges the government, businesses and individuals to put food on the agenda in order to start the change we need today.
According to a recent survey, a third of Hong Kong’s population is eating out every day. In this episode of RTHK’s Backchat, I was invited to discuss the effects of this.
Many people eat out because restaurants are relatively affordable in Hong Kong and most people find it convenient. However shopping, preparing and cooking can offer more than just a healthier meal, it’s a way of reconnecting and learning about food.
In this opinion piece (Initium), I was invited to write about my research on Hong Kong’s food system. Framing the issue of hunger and food waste in the wider context of food security, I argued that food waste is everyone’s problem. Building a secure food system is not just about poverty alleviation or environmental protection, but the fundamental foundation of sustainable urban development. (in Chinese only)
As part of the month long event aimed at using technology to tackle food waste in the F&B sector in Hong Kong, Metta held a series of 5 workshops bringing together industry leaders, start-ups, NGOs and researchers into discussion.
I was invited to present alongside the Economist Intelligence Unit to speak on food security. On a macro level, the global food security index identifies a country’s strength and weaknesses in order to pinpoint areas of action and policy needed to plug the gaps in the food system. Zooming in to the case study of Hong Kong, I looked at how the city feeds itself and demonstrated the urgent need to diversify and maximise our food resources. Playing a key role in this are food rescue NGOs who are also present in the discussion.
Event: The Future of F&B Tech in Hong Kong, Can Hong Kong use Tech to Curb food waste? Organisers: Keshia Hannam (Mētta) Panel Members : Daisy Tam (Hong Kong Baptist University), Trisha Suresh (The Economist – Intelligence Unit). Venue: Mētta
An interview by the Dutch newspaper Trouw on the Hong Kong’s eating habits and sustainability. Cultural behaviours and trends affect the way we consume, but education can raise awareness and create change in the long term. Featuring the vertical garden which I started with my students, I explained how learning about food could be the seed of change. (in Dutch only)
As part of the Knowledge Transfer Project “Greener Living – micro urban farming and turning waste into resource”, I started a vertical garden to grow an edible wall with my students where we planted organic vegetables using wasted resources.
The garden is designed for the specificities of Hong Kong living. Space is at a premium in this land-challenged city, so I designed the garden using the vertical space of walls to mount empty water bottles as planters. The biology department also donated compost made from leftovers from student canteens to fertilize our vegetables. Students learnt about the food system as they grew kale and lettuce right by their classroom. One of my student who also part timed as a chef shared recipes when we harvested our local produce.
Event: Harvest Festival Organisers: Dr Daisy Tam Venue: Hong Kong Baptist University
I was invited to chair the session called Food for Thought at Asia Society. The event was called “In a Grain of Rice: Food & Culture for South and Southeast Asia”. I shared examples drawn from my research and own experiences to discuss the cultural significance of rice and reflected on how food bring communities together through participatory practices.
I invited my friends Ah Chuk and Kwai-Chun, organic farmers from Choi Yuen Tsuen to feature their famous char guar (Hakka Teacakes) at the event.
Choi Yuen Tsuen is located in the Northeastern New Territories, one of the few places left in Hong Kong that still practiced agriculture. The village made headline news in 2009-2010 when villagers joined forces with civic society groups to protest against governments’ plans to build the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-HK Express Link that would go through the village. Choi Yuen Tsuen became the symbol of the struggle between maintaining a way of life and urbanisation.
Event: In a Grain of Rice: Food & Culture for South and Southeast Asia Organisers: Asia Society Hong Kong Centre Panel Members: Daisy Tam (Hong Kong Baptist University), Yoshiko Nankano (University of Hong Kong), Michael Leung (Hong Kong Farm). Venue: Asia Society Hong Kong Centre
“Lost Food: Food, Knowledge, Culture” was one of the earliest events I organised at Hong Kong Baptist University. I invited a panel of speakers to talk about our forgotten food culture and lost knowledge – from the way food is produced, to the way its prepared and consumed, how little we know shows how alienated we are from our everyday necessity.
Event: Lost Food – Food, Knowledge, Culture Organiser: Daisy Tam (Hong Kong Baptist University) Panel Members : Daisy Tam (Hong Kong Baptist University); Hing Chao (Earthpulse Foundation Founder); Fung Yu Chuk (Choi Yuen Tsuen farmer); Leung Cho Yiu (local actor/ urban farmer). Venue: Hong Kong Baptist University