The finals of the Food for Health and Safety Challenge were held last Friday, when 10 teams from TU/e, WUR, UU and UMC Utrecht presented their ideas for a new food concept for the Ministry of Defence. The assignment given the students last February was to serve servicepeople a good, nutritious and tasty meal while on deployment. The winning idea was ‘Bunch of Boxes’, which uses vacuum packaging to conserve energy and reduce food waste.

In the challenge, the four institutions joined forces with the ministries of Defence and Economic Affairs. Brigadier General Frits van Dooren (Defence) and Ineke Lemmen, programme manager of the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ ‘Verzilver je Talent’ programme, brought the parties together and asked them to come up with unexpected, innovative ideas. On Friday, the students presented their concepts to an panel of experts from the Ministry of Defence, a start-up scout and the CEO of start-up Orbisk, which has developed a tool to help prevent food from going to waste. The jury was impressed by the quality and diversity of the student teams’ ideas. “The extremely high quality of the concepts gives us plenty of food for thought.”

Bunch of Boxes

The winning team came up with the ‘Bunch of Boxes’ concept, and earned its victory through a thorough analysis of the problem and a detailed elaboration of the concept, which the team also presented in an attractive report. The concept featured a variety of good solutions, such as an app the soldier can use to choose and rate the meal, an algorithm to help prevent food from going to waste, and a way to reclaim energy from the waste products. The team also made use of a sustainable way for preserving food. The jury ruled it was a convincing concept. Brigadier General Van Dooren: “It’s a great combination of new technologies and realistic ideas. They thought of many different aspects of the food concept, including food waste and energy conservation. The pitch and the plan were very thorough, well-written and detailed, which made it extremely convincing.”

The winning team was made up of students Marloes van der Burgt (TU/e, Psychology & Technology), Max Kevers (WUR, Nutrition and Health), Silke Dijkstra (WUR, Nutrition and Health), Ilse Plantinga (WUR Food Technology – Product Design & Ingredient Functionality), Madhumitha Muthurajan (WUR, Food Technology), Iris Oud (WUR, Animal Sciences) and Thijs Benschop (UU, Biology).


Ineke Lemmen: “Working together on a challenge like this brings students from different institutions together and creates the new connections we need to solve complex contemporary social problems.” Over the course of the challenge, the students had the opportunity to meet offline on a military base and to talk to soldiers about the challenge. That made it easier for the student teams to become acquainted and to effectively address the servicepeople’s needs and preferences. The challenge offered the Ministry of Defence several interesting ideas for the replacement of the mobile satellite kitchen in 2023.