Food Service

SFU and Forward Food Summit: Educational Institutions Shaping Plant-Based Food Market

On November 2nd, Simon Fraser University (SFU) in British Columbia, Canada, partnered with Humane Society International and its Forward Food initiative to host the SFU and Forward Food Summit (Plant-Based Edition). This event provided a platform for food service professionals and leaders to come together, facilitating networking opportunities and equipping them with the necessary skills to integrate plant-based foods into their menus, with the goal of promoting a more sustainable and locally sourced food system.

The summit featured a lineup of expert speakers and panelists, including Brent Loken, the global food lead scientist for WWF Global Science, and Amy Symington, nutrition professor and plant-based chef at George Brown College.

In addition to the informative sessions, 24 chefs participated in specialized training, showcasing how to effectively leverage plant-based ingredients in menu creation. The summit saw participation from over 150 attendees and featured a tradeshow that showcased products from 12 innovators in plant-based food. 

SFU Forward Food Summut
© SFU

The central theme of the summit, “deepening local roots,” underscored the importance of exploring the integration of plant-based foods into menus to drive a more locally sourced food system. This initiative aligns with the broader vision of promoting healthier and environmentally sustainable dietary choices in schools and ensuring compliance with Canada’s Food Guide, which recommends that two-thirds of one’s diet should comprise vegetables, grains, and plant-based proteins.

Universities’ role in shaping the market

Canada’s National Observer reported on some of the insights from the summit. According to the publication, one of the key speakers, Sid Mehta of SFU, emphasized the influential role that public sector institutions, such as universities, play in shaping the market. He highlighted the potential for universities, given their substantial daily meal service volume, to drive suppliers to source more plant-based and locally-produced foods. 

SFU cafeteria
© SFU

The summit also touched on the receptiveness of the younger generation to plant-based options, particularly in school cafeterias. Numerous Canadian universities, including Western University, have committed to expanding their plant-based menu options to align with sustainability goals. Such initiatives are mirrored by educational institutions worldwide, reflecting a collective effort to promote a healthier and more environmentally friendly food system. The summit represented a significant step forward in advancing these objectives.

Confidence in long-term appeal

As questions about the long-term growth of the plant-based food market persist, Canada’s National Observer reported that Mehta expressed confidence in the enduring appeal of basic ingredients like lentils, tofu, tempeh, grains, and vegetables, which have formed the foundation of human diets for centuries. Alongside these staples, he notes that newer, moderately processed plant-based alternatives will continue to gain prominence, but that they alone won’t drive the transition.

Find the full coverage of insights from Canada’s National Observer here.

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