Sascha Rust was a chef – now he is a “food systems architect”.

It sounds obtuse, but it’s pretty straightforward. Rust develops eco-friendly supply chains and educates chefs and restaurateurs around the world on the importance of sourcing ingredients ethically and responsibly. His latest project is a line of meal kits in partnership with Lavazza designed to bring greater focus to sustainable agriculture in coffee regions.

Ethical consumption “not that sexy”

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“There are fundamental, broken elements to the way we consume,” says Rust. His focus is on the supply chain, that often-overlooked link between production and consumption. “It’s just a really boring, ugly piece of the food system that nobody pays much attention to,” Rust says. “And it’s not that sexy, frankly.” Supply chain issues, such as mislabeling something as sustainable when it isn’t, can mislead customers, meaning we might be contributing to negative environmental impacts regardless of whether we’re trying to do the right thing.

Even if ethical producers can get their products through the supply chain, there are plenty of challenges at the agricultural level, with small producers most susceptible. “These small-scale growers are the people that are highly impacted by environmental issues, or changes in the supply chain, or changes in consumer behaviour – they’re the most at risk,” says Rust.

The fragility of food production

Drawing attention to the importance of sustainable agriculture across coffee regions from around the world is the essence of Lavazza’s limited-edition ‘Nature’s Course’ meal kits. Rust has sourced some lesser-known (or lesser-appreciated) ingredients to star in the dishes, ingredients that are particularly sensitive to environmental issues. The first – a Peruvian roast pumpkin dish with rice salad and ocopa sauce – highlights pumpkin’s susceptibility to volatile climate change.

“Pumpkin’s a really interesting one, because they’re really quite a sensitive crop,” says Rust. “Heavy rainfall can cause quite a lot of rotting and crop loss, whereas low rainfall can impact the size of the fruit, they stay quite small. Erratic weather conditions, which we know are a consequence of climate change, are causing havoc to these crops in South America.”

The second dish is a salmon vatapá (an Afro-Brazilian curry-like stew) with annatto seed. For the annatto seed, a lack of global awareness of the ingredient means the impacts of climate change are often overlooked. “Like all other flowering trees, it’s really particularly suited to this really tight band of subtropical temps and rainfall,” Rust says. “So any shifts north or south of that band, you’re going to see impacts.”

The third meal is an East African-inspired dish of injera bread and chickpeas. “Chickpeas are a backbone protein for a huge amount of the world’s population, but at the same time they’re a really delicate product,” Rust says. “If you get one of those unexpected events, whether it’s heat stress or huge rainfall or whatever, you’ll just see almost 100% mortality on crop.”

Nature’s course

The aim of the make-at-home meal kits (also designed by chef and MasterChef judge Jock Zonfrillo) is to spotlight the great work Lavazza does in partnership with small coffee producers across the world, to help combat the challenges of climate change. For each of the three regions where Lavazza’s ¡Tierra! coffee is grown – Central America, the Amazon and Africa – there are undoubtedly many varied challenges, but the idea behind the meal kits is that consumer choice can go a long way to insulating against the worst of it. On top of this, all proceeds made from the meal kits will be donated to an Australian not-for-profit carbon offset charity.

Ultimately, Rust hopes that the kits will help people think a little more critically about where their food is coming from, and empower people to tackle climate change. “Responsibility for these things is shared,” says Rust. “It’s not always somebody else’s problem, and I fundamentally believe that we’re in the position we’re in today because we have gone, ‘Well somebody else will fix it’. We all need to take our part. You have an equal responsibility for doing what you can, otherwise there’s no chance.”

Lavazza’s Nature’s Course meal kits are $20 and are available here.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Lavazza.