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Today we are delighted to feature a guest blog post from one of the speakers who helped bring our 2023 Global Student Conference to life in Singapore. Do enjoy! 

Written by Faeza Sirajudin and Sunita Venkataraman

Co-Founders of Face The Future,

“What does food have to do with Human skills?”

This is the question I posed to the participants of the CAS Trips Global Student Conference in Singapore during the keynote speech I delivered as part of the three-day conference. This year’s theme was The Future of Food, and I wanted them to explore how something as simple as food could be a very complex subject connected intrinsically to the human experience and the activation of human skills.

Beyond sustenance, how we can unpack food’s role in society 

Being a die-hard foodie, the conversation I had with the fantastic young participants was delightful for me!

I started with the obvious things about food that we all have top of mind already — food for survival and the fact that we eat to live. But so many of us also live to eat! And food is so much more than just functional — we humans have a relationship with food, which dictates our schedules and choices. Then there are the emotional angles of food including how it can impact our moods and, of course, our health.

The pathway to responsible consumption: acknowledging the complexities of food’s supply chain

And every time we pop a food item into our mouth, do we realize how much we have taken for granted regarding how it arrived there? Before we get to enjoy it, there is an entire supply chain working hard to ensure that it makes it to us in the first place. When we consider this complex process, we cannot but think about how grateful we have to be for every morsel we put in our mouths, and how many people and systems must come together to make this multifaceted system work. From the farmer and farm ecosystem to processing and packaging, to shipping and logistics, to wholesale and retail, to finally get to our tables… a lot has to happen seamlessly! 

The entire journey of food we get to eat, what we do at every meal, and every indulgence is a fabulous testimony to human ingenuity, creativity, problem-solving, adaptability, and collaboration. In fact, food has been a driving force in the development of human societies, shaping culture, economics, and health and transforming us from hunter-gatherers to the industrialized world we live in.

The Future of Food in Singapore

Appreciating vulnerability and preparedness as it relates to our food systems 

Having food consistently is a privilege, and we must not forget this or take it for granted! Climate change, natural disasters, diseases, and war, are all things that can disrupt this chain of events; something that so many of us never pause to consider. And when we stop to think about it, we realize several dystopian situations are not at all outside the realm of possibility.

In fact, at the annual Crackerjack Convention, we run for young people, participants are thrown into one of these possible dystopias. By activating their human skills, they need not just to survive, but thrive. The Crackerjack Convention, run by Face The Future, held every December in Singapore, is the foremost global event for young people that focuses on activating and evaluating human skills.

Nurturing problem-solvers and cultivating essential competencies for tomorrow

So, how would our young people help solve these potential problems, or better still, help prevent them from occurring? 

They would require the following learnable 21st-century competencies:

  • Identify the problems and consider potential solutions
  • Talk to, listen to, and work with others
  • Learn about people and processes
  • Be determined and flexible with solutions
  • Be innovative, take charge

Bringing nourishment and adaptation together

Our journey with Crackerjack has reinforced a key insight: food occupies a pivotal role in both survival and prosperity. Our exploration reminds us that the connection between sustenance and human development stretches far back and remains an intrinsic aspect of the human identity.

Yet, while food is a centerpiece, it is essential to recognize the diverse elements that we need to thrive — shelter, education, security, and the community. These facets interweave to create a holistic experience, absolutely requiring the diverse set of skills and competencies we must cultivate to navigate the challenges of contemporary existence. Tools like critical thinking, collaboration, innovation, and empathy will enable us to navigate the present and future. Armed with these 21st century competencies, we can transform obstacles into opportunities, paving the way for a more adaptable and informed society.

Gazing forward, we discern the pressing issues that lie on the horizon—climate change, societal inequities, technological leaps. All of these have a direct impact on food. And all of these require the activation of 21st Century Competencies to navigate.