Coffee with... Joszi Smeets
Coffee with Joszi Smeets, co-founder of Food Hub
Together with Joris Lohman, Joszi Smeets is co-founder of Food Hub, a young organization with its roots in food movements such as Slow Food and Youth Food Movement. With a team of people representing all parts of the food chain —from farmers to restaurant owners, retailers and investors—, Food Hub offers training and guidance in the field of food education.
Growing up, Joszi was taught to think big and make things personal. She explains: “Working with the senses, tasting, that’s what’s important to me. Food is personal and it provokes emotions, but at the same time it can be a tool to illustrate complex issues. When you know what you eat, where it comes from, how it is produced and how the price is established, you automatically start to appreciate a healthy and honest production chain.”
Creating insight into a complex problem is what drives Joszi. She wants to connect a diverse group of people who have differing opinions to each other through education about sustainability. That covers everything from what a person buys, cooks and tastes, to global issues concerning environment, health and fair trade.
Food Hub focuses mainly on professionals who work in the food industry, many of whom are just starting out, and those in agricultural education. Not only does Food Hub focus on people who are already working in the field, but they also target large farmers with a desire to create a sustainable product or even employees of fast food companies. “On both sides of the spectrum, people are working toward the future. We have the critical consumer, new environmental political guidelines and there is a larger discussion about food, health and obtaining raw materials,“ says Joszi.
Joszi emphasizes that their position in the center is intentional. “There is so much going on in the world of food, that there is no room for a dogmatic story about the right way or the best solution. A product can only be sustainable if the whole chain is sustainable. The farmer, the chef, the consumer and the retailer; they all need to work together. You may want to sell organically grown produce, but if it needs to be flown in from Africa in the winter, what is the right thing to do?”
Connection, reciprocity, the human touch and diversity are some of the key concepts for Joszi. “I want to go beyond moralism or pointing fingers. The matter is too complex and personal for that. All people are different, but what we have in common is that we all want to create a beautiful environment. Take a step back and leave your opinions at home for a day. Look at each other and listen without judgment: open up and try new things. The vegan meets the fisherman, the consumer shops at the farm, the farmer learns the secrets of gastronomy and the employee of a fast food chain talks to a critical consumer.”
Food Hub hires pioneering teachers, coaches or mentors to help starters set up. Food Hub in turn provides knowledge and finance for new initiatives. “The most important thing is to keep working on a sustainable food chain by constantly innovating the cycle.”
Especially the awareness that, as a company, you can be part of a bigger social movement is important. Besides, you have to be in motion yourself to inspire others to move. For Joszi, being part of the Spring House community means meeting people, a willingness to learn, and sharing knowledge. These are the basic ingredients to come together and create radical innovation. Being a part of Spring House makes sense to her because of the open atmosphere, the inspiring and sustainable building, a shared vision for social entrepreneurship and of course the delicious lunches. “I like the fact that I can ask others for help and at the same time offer advice as well. Spring House inspires co-creation. For example: another member can think of a strong name for one of our campaigns and we can offer input for their programs."
The basic principles of connection and reciprocity that are the central tenet of the Food Hub enable their efforts to shape the innovative Spring House community.
Interview by Kitty den Boogert