The challenge has started!
At the request of the Ministry of Defence, 68 students from TU/e, WUR, UU and UMC Utrecht are working on a new ration concept for servicepeople on deployment. Soldiers deployed to combat areas are currently served meals from obsolescent mobile field kitchens. So the Ministry of Defence has asked the students how they can serve military personnel quality, nutritious and delicious meals. “We say: Help us develop a new concept. Come up with some surprising new ideas”, commanded Brigadier General Frits van Dooren.
On Friday, 12 January, the Food for Health and Safety Challengekicked off with a meeting between the students and experts from the Ministry of Defence. In interdisciplinary teams, the students will look for answers to questions such as: How can you ensure that soldiers eat nutritious meals with enough calories? How can you transport rations to the base where the personnel are deployed? How can you present the meals? At the moment, the military uses field kitchens to heat and distribute the food, but this concept is desperately in need of replacement or improvement. Auke Westerterp, WUR lecturer and consultant for the Ministry: “The servicepeople don’t have much variation in their meals; sometimes they’ll have to eat nothing but beans for a whole week. Often, soldiers on joint missions with forces from different countries will trade their rations to eat something different for a change. They would really appreciate rations that are both nutritious and varied.
The students in the project are not only diverse in terms of the universities they are enrolled at; they also represent 14 different nationalities and 38 different degree programmes, both at the Bachelor’s and Master’s levels. This gives the students experience with working in diverse, multi-disciplinary teams. Over the next few weeks, the students will begin work on the challenge together with the experts from the Ministry of Defence and their coaches, who will mentor them in developing professional and personal skills. The students will present their proposals for a new rations concept before the summer holidays.
Minister Van Engelshoven joined the kick-off event for the challenge on Friday, to offer the students encouragement as they conduct their studies remotely. The students told the Minister about their experiences with studying during the pandemic, and the effect it has had on their mental well-being. They also spoke about the introduction period for new first-year students, and they role that student associations play in maintaining contact among the students.