HAS University of Applied Sciences is doing its best to ensure that students incur as little study delay as possible during the corona crisis. Many students who had to cancel their internship or who were unable to complete it, are now working on replacement assignments. Food Innovation student, Maureen van Doorn, is one of them. She developed new food boxes for the Uitstreekend initiative in the Southwest Delta.
Maureen van Doorn is a 3rd year Food Innovation student and was just a few weeks into her internship at Callas Confituren in Ghent, Belgium, when the corona crisis started. Maureen: “I came home on the 15th of March. Initially, this was only temporary. But it soon became clear that the borders were closing and I couldn't go back. My internship was stopped. It was a strange time. And it all happened so fast. I went to get some stuff from my temporary room in Ghent and quickly said goodbye to the people there. And then, before I knew it, I was just stuck in the Netherlands.”
Maureen is now working on a replacement internship assignment under the supervision of HAS University of Applied Sciences lecturer, Patricia van de Pol. It turns out that this assignment is just right for her, because it's partly about reducing food waste; a subject that has fascinated Maureen from the very beginning of her studies. “I'm working on the ‘Uitstreekend’ initiative in the Southwest Delta,” Maureen explains. (‘Uitstreekend’ is a Dutch play on words combing ‘excellent’ and ‘local’ red.) “This initiative was only supposed to be rolled out in September, but was brought forward because of the corona outbreak.”
The AAS of the Brabantse Wal
Within Uitstreekend, farmers and growers are working together to offer products from the Brabantse Wal region directly from the land to consumers, in the form of food boxes. “Uitstreekend focusses on the key produce of the Brabantse Wal: asparagus, anchovies and strawberries. The meal boxes always contain a combination of seasonal products from the region. So, products are not only local, but also seasonal. The partners want to make the food chain as short as possible, while at the same time preventing food waste and making consumers aware of food waste.”
Delta Agrifood Business as distribution point
There are now several food boxes available via the website Uitstreekend.nl. The municipality of Bergen op Zoom has made the Delta Agrifood Business available as a distribution point. During the Easter period, there was a drive-thru there, so consumers could pick up their box by car. “The fact that Uitstreekend is committed to keeping the food chain short, fits in well with the Delta Agrifood Business philosophy: connecting, joining forces and innovating,” says Peter Berben from the municipality. “We expect the number of growers involved in the initiative to continue to grow, making it more sustainable: great regional products will soon be available all year round. And we're happy to be able to facilitate this.”
In the coming months, Maureen will focus on expanding the range and is now busy working on developing the concept further. “I’m focusing on food design: I carry out a competitive analysis, develop new concepts within the existing product line and include packaging ideas. I hope that there’ll soon be several of my food boxes on sale in the web shop.”
Maureen isn’t the only one working for Uitstreekend. There are two more Food Innovation students who are doing a replacement assignment for the project. Third-year student, Kelly Bruinhof, is focusing on setting up a communication plan and campaign to increase the reach within the region. Fourth-year student, Myrte van der Pol, is giving advice on assignments for students, which can be set up in the Uitstreekend inspirational kitchen, to enable participants to experience the food culture of the West-Brabant and Zeeland region.
The students have regular contact with each other, with their supervising lecturers and with their contact person at Uitstreekend. These contacts are mainly from a distance. This can be a challenge, as Maureen explains: “Working from a distance makes it harder to make connections. Fortunately, we have regular video calls. I’ll be working on this assignment until July 10th, so I hope we’ll be able to meet each other at least once before then.”