Out of the upcoming Facing the In-Between Magazine Issue #02:
The Food Ritual of Tomorrow – an everlasting perfection
The Netherlands today: More than half of the population is trying to adopt a healthier nutrition but does not know how. Simultaneously, residents of the Netherlands believe that nutritious and wholesome food options must be more expensive than, for example, readymade dishes. What especially stands out in previous studies is the fact that people struggle with self-discipline when it comes to a long-term healthy diet (NOS, 08.12.2010).
A service that might change the behavior of the population of the Netherlands is the idea of the health program Health Check. When the three designers of Health Check Denise Hirtenfelder, Renée Overberg and Mina Voigt first came up with the concept of Health Check, they felt upset with the connection to food in their personal environment and friend groups. They could especially observe the following eating habits: uncontrolled eating, a high intake of processed food, an overly ambitious attempt of counting calories and track it via an app as well as the increase of people suffering from orthorexia, anorexia, obesity or binge eating. It seemed like only a small amount of people in their surroundings had a feeling for consuming wholesome food without restrictions and having a healthy, balanced nutrition.
To address the desire of the citizens of the Netherlands to eat more healthily and to be able to monitor their eating habits Hirtenfelder, Overberg and Voigt came up with the concept of Health Check, whose main goal is to make the client aware of the intake of healthy food and the choice of opting for a healthier option with the possibility of getting rewarded for taking the latter. The inspiration to reward the population for healthy nutrition came from the concept of the Chinese “social credit system” where the citizens get a score for their social behaviour (Ma, 30.10.2018). But first, let’s explain more accurately how Health Check works before we discuss what it will actually mean for the development of our future food rituals in our modern society.
According to the designers, the residents of The Netherlands ought to undergo a customer journey of getting a chip implanted on their tongue. The insurance companies of the country have the responsibility to decide what kind of food is wholesome, unhealthy or highly processed. According to their decisions, each food item is rated with points that indicate that food is beneficial or harmful. The citizens can regulate their nutrition intake first through scanning their items in an app and check if their products are nutritious and have plus points before eating them. The more plus points they have, the less they have to pay for their health insurance. In addition, they can earn extra plus points by offering healthier food options to their peers. In fact, that would mean that eating healthy meals makes us wealthier and there is no excuse anymore that nutritional food is expensive.
The food industry and the international trade have brought many pleasures, for example, the enjoyment of exotic or unseasonal fruits at any time. Most of these pleasures we do not want to lose in our everyday life. But especially in terms of Covid-19, the vivid exchange of food as we are experiencing now, can spread a pandemic more easily. Covid-19 has shown that the governments have neglected the health sector in their funds over the past few years. With the rise of the world-population as another important factor one fear for the future could be that our health insurance will go through a reform in which the funds are being cut to a minimum for anyone that does not look after themselves and who’s rated "healthy" according to the guidelines established by the health sector of their country. The concept of Health Check tries to avoid the cuts in health funds and wants to provide the citizen of The Netherlands with a fair deal regarding the costs of their health insurances.
But the concept of Health Check also lets us question our free will because if the government of The Netherlands decides to introduce the chip into our health system, we have no choice. Each citizen must be provided with a chip in order to pay the right amount of taxes to the government. That means that we do not have as much control of what we are eating anymore as it might seem. Our entire food intake, as well as the consumption of cigarettes and medical treatments would be monitored by the government and it would offend The Netherlands as a liberate state.
Even though the service of Health Check is just fiction, a similar concept to regulate a higher system of our nutrition intake could be possible in the future. The government of The Netherlands is already taking harsh restrictions in terms of smoking laws. Those could be extended to a certain degree so that they also affect our diet. The way we will use our food supplies and the services offered at supermarkets are yet to be seen, which makes this field particularly interesting for consumers. In addition, electronic devices including the smartphone, tablets and laptops are indispensable for our daily use and by designing functional health apps developers research the use of upcoming gestures between these gadgets and the consumer, but also between interactions of consumers themselves.
Another design idea that could be relevant and inspiring for the shopping sensation is the Future Food District by Carlo Ratti Associati. The Coop supermarket of the future is connected to robot techniques and AI and shows similar details about the food we consume, like Health Check, just without a plus and minus rating system (Carlo Ratti Associati, 27.03.2016).
The question of who will be in charge of our food intake may sound extreme, but a part of it will be definitely more monitored by higher systems and modern technology in the upcoming years.
Carlo Ratti Associati. „Future Food District by Carlo Ratti Associati @ Expo Milano 2015“. Youtube, 27.03.2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDBvunDYGQA
Ma, Alexandra. „China has started ranking citizens with a creepy ‘social credit’ system — here’s what you can do wrong, and the embarrassing, demeaning ways they can punish you“. Business Insider, 30.10.2018, https://www.businessinsider.nl/china-social-credit-system-punishments-and-rewards-explained-2018-4?international=true&r=US
“Feiten en cijfers: zo eet Nederland“. Nos Nieuwes, 08.12.2010, https://nos.nl/artikel/203745-feiten-en-cijfers-zo-eet-nederland.html
Speculative Design, Concept Development, Graphic Editing & Writing