Kromkommer co-founder Chantal Engelen has been working for equal rights for all fruits and vegetables since 2012. Kromkommer (a Dutch wordplay on the words cucumber and crooked) works in many ways to ensure that “wonky” fruit and vegetables find their way onto supermarket shelves. What’s learnt in the cradle, lasts till the tomb: Kromkommer creates lesson plans for elementary schools (‘Save the Krommies!’), and launched the children’s book ‘De Krommies – Meneer Tweebeenpeen’ and ‘Kromme’ fruit and vegetable toys. By introducing children to wonky fruits and vegetables at a young age, Kromkommer hopes to contribute to the prevention of food waste.
Public Matters supported Kromkommer in achieving this goal in 2020 – and now looks back on this eventful period with Chantal.
“In a way, Kromkommer doesn’t do ‘lobbying’ at all,” Chantal begins. “What we have been trying to do since our founding is inspire people to look at the quality of fruits and vegetables differently: from farmers to stores, from restaurants to consumers – and politicians. With the latter target group, however, the rules of the game are somewhat different. But also, therein, we want to keep the authentic Kromkommer voice at the forefront.” In 2018, for example, Kromkommer was still standing at the House of Representatives with a carrot costume and some crooked kiwis – and as such managed to make its first contact with members of parliament.
Influencing the School Fruit Scheme to prevent food waste
Over the past year Kromkommer started working on quality standards within the EU School Fruit Scheme. They discovered that the Dutch implementation of the EU School Fruit Scheme included the requirement that delivered fruit had to be of quality standard 1. This, even though equally healthy and tasty quality standard 2 fruit and vegetables could contribute to the education of pupils. “It was useful to have some insight into the political process and to find the right nuances. The first time I sat at a roundtable discussion for example, I didn’t know that taking pictures was prohibited or how such a conversation works in reality. It’s nice to have someone take you through these do’s and dont’s.”
Corona was a challenge, but the existing contacts in The Hague helped to achieve Kromkommer’s goal. Even though online solutions are very helpful, human contact is what makes the most impact. Kromkommer is also known for its fine campaigns, often accompanied by playful outfits and objects. These are more difficult to translate into a digital conversation. Nevertheless, after repeated efforts by Kromkommer, minister Schouten announced in October 2020 that she wants to adjust the school fruit scheme. And that’s good news: as of 2021, suppliers will receive a subsidy if they supply wonky fruit and vegetables. In addition, the minister said she is dedicated to work within the EU to get this done in other countries as well. Kromkommer’s first goal has thus been achieved: namely, to create the conditions for change.
Eye on the future
And now Kromkommer will concentrate on the future. They want to continue to focus on offering lesson plans in schools once the circumstances permit it. Also, they continue to keep a close eye on the school fruit process.
Chantal’s tip to smaller organizations that want to enter the lobbying field: “Stick to who you are and make this your strength. You will stand out if you do not play by all the ‘rules’. In doing so, it helps to be sure how the game is played in the political arena – just don’t lose your identity.”
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