Thursday, 16 April 2020 08:16

Estonia launches a campaign for the promotion of fishing and aquaculture products

EM 2 20 Fish consIn 2020–2023, the Ministry of Rural Affairs is planning a campaign to introduce and raise awareness of fishing and aquaculture products in Estonia. The aim of the campaign is to motivate Estonians to eat more fish, and to expand consumption of fish in the broadest sense.

Current consumption of fishing and aquaculture products in Estonia is significantly lower than the average of Estonia’s neighbours or of the EU, where per capita consumption of seafood is 25 kg per year (EUMOFA). Estonians consume some 17 kg of fish per person annually. This amount includes both consumption at home and away from home. In comparison, more fish was consumed in the past: about 30 kg per person annually in 1970, 25 kg in 1980, and 23 kg in 1989. These amounts should, of course, be considered in light of the fact that the trade, availability of food products, and selection were significantly different back then compared to the current situation.

Comprehensive campaign targets all age groups

The campaign to introduce and raise awareness of fishing and aquaculture products will be diverse, long-term, and nationwide. It will target different age groups (e.g. children, teenagers, pregnant women, elderly people) using channels and methods suitable for each group. The state will promote a generic message, that should, however, comply with various recommendations from the fields of food safety and food science, such as the balanced food pyramid, and take into consideration the seasonal nature of fish resources in the region. The campaign will promote fish consumption in general, without focusing on specific trademarks, producers, or areas of origin.

The idea is that everyone involved in the fisheries sector, from fishermen to cafés and stores, will be inspired by the campaign. The campaign is counting on good ideas from the representative organisations, fishermen, producers, and retailers on how to offer the products to better satisfy the expected increase in demand. The campaign, which will draw attention to the existence and value of fish, is expected to benefit the reputation and financial indicators of the companies cooperating with the campaign independently. The campaign will be funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for 2014–2020.

Chefs inspire children to prepare food

For many years, the Ministry of Rural Affairs has been involved with educational projects designed for children with the aim of introducing them to the path food takes from nature to the dining table. As the majority of the population now lives in cities, many children have no connections with rural life and therefore also no idea of how food is produced. Due to the accelerating pace of life, people are increasingly consuming storebought, ready-made meals and less and less time is spent in the kitchen preparing and eating food together with the family. In order to change these behavioural patterns and increase the awareness of food among children, the consumers of the future, they must be involved as early as possible. The so-called hands-on method is the most efficient way to achieve this purpose.

In 2019, the Ministry of Rural Affairs launched the “Chefs at Schools” pilot project supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) 2014–2020 with the aim of invigorating the cooking lessons taught at schools, to draw attention to the story of local food and the vocation of a cook, and to teach children to value food prepared by them. The project was implemented in cooperation with the Estonian Association of Chefs and it consisted of two stages. The Ministry of Rural Affairs also plans to continue to contribute to the promotion of fish dishes at educational institutions.

Hands-on projects for school children generates much interest

First, study materials were produced in cooperation with top restaurant chefs. A collection of recipes appropriate for children were put together with videos teaching children how to prepare food as well as printable materials for teachers. The National Institute for Health Development was also involved to ensure that the recipes selected were compliant with the principles of healthy eating. In the second stage of the project, the chefs visited schools and gave cooking lessons. In addition to preparing food, special attention was also paid to safety at work and the local food culture. In the autumn of 2019, 43 chefs visited one hundred Estonian schools; a total of 2,348 children were able to take part in the classes within the framework of the pilot project.

As schools were very interested in the project, the Ministry of Rural Affairs saw this as a good opportunity to promote preparations made with fish as well, and some of the lessons were dedicated to popularising these dishes in particular. The feedback received from the schools after the project was positive. Crispy fish bites made of oven-baked codfish fillet were announced as one of the children’s favourite recipes. A children’s video competition was also organised as a follow-up activity, for which children had to prepare a dish and film a video of the process. The grand prize was a visit to a chef at their restaurant, cook a meal and eat it together. The project is a good opportunity for schools for diversifying their curricula, creating practical connections between real life and subjects taught at school, and drawing attention to vocational training,
i.e. popularising the skills of a cook. The zeal of chefs can inspire students and teachers alike.