Felipe has created DuLocal, a plant-based meal delivery business, because he believes that by changing the food system we could solve many of the environmental issues and the poverty that we are facing.
Photo Courtesy of Felipe Gasko
Felipe is the co-founder and CEO of DuLocal. He created the Brazilian meal delivery business in 2018. He is passionate about food and loves cooking for his friends and family. Felipe was trained as an environmental engineer and holds a master in environment economics. His engineering background urges him to find solutions to problems, and he is convinced that the food system is both the problem and the solution. Having grown organic vegetables himself with his family and after a short training in a culinary school in the UK, Felipe returned to Brazil to put into action his idea of how to have a positive impact on his community.
In this interview he tells us more about his business, what drives him to develop it further and how it supports a more sustainable food system for everyone.
Thank you and welcome Felipe to Chefs for Impact!
By Felipe Gasko as told to Chefs for Impact
Interviewed by special contributor Elodie Levrel
Can you tell us more about DuLocal and why you’ve created this company?
“The goal of Dulocal is to allow people to eat meals made with local ingredients, we want to make it easier for people of Sao Paulo to access fresh food. Our idea was to connect small, local farmers and women cooks in favelas to consumers to have a positive impact on the environment level but also at the social level.
The current food system here is very complex. When you eat at home you usually have 2 options, you either get meals delivered to you or you have to buy from the supermarket. Most of the time, this means already processed food that has traveled from afar.
If you want to eat local, fresh and healthy, you have to commit to it: you need to go to the market, you need to cook. It is strange that the simplest food is the hardest to access, it doesn’t make any sense! When I thought about this, I realized that there was something wrong and I wanted to do something to help fix it.
So our goal at DuLocal is to make the process of consuming local organic fresh food as easy as possible and to do so we deliver meals made from local organic produce and food cooked by women in favelas.”
DuLocal was launched in Sao Paulo in 2019, only a few months before Covid-19 hit,
what impact did it have on the company?
“We launched in Sao Paulo because that’s where the biggest market was. We mainly delivered lunch meals in the business area of Sao Paulo, where there are lots of offices. People liked the food and the story behind the company, so it grew fast! At the beginning of the pandemic, it was really tough for us as a business, since people were not going to be in the office anymore.
We had to extend our delivery area and we started doing digital marketing etc. We’ve also launched subscription-based programs with prepared meals, but also other products that are essential for a good diet at home such as bread, vegetables etc., all from local producers of course!”
How do you choose the producers you work with?
“The producers have to have organic practices and be located all within 150kms (93 miles) of São Paulo.
We elaborate our menus based on whatever is harvested by our network of producers.
We use fresh local produce as much as possible but sometimes we have to use grains or rice from a bit further (as they are not produced in Sao Paulo’s area), but nothing is imported, and we work with producers as close as possible!”
What about the women that cook the meals? How do you work with them?
“They have a background in food entrepreneurship - some used to sell cakes for example. When we first started, we would train them a bit with the ingredients they would receive from the local farmers, and they would cook at their place. Now we have a cooking facility where they come and can cook with professional equipment. Every week, we estimate the workload, and they decide to come when it works best for them. We really want to offer them flexibility so that they can combine their personal and professional life.
The women cooks that we hire all come from favelas. As we are trying to fight inequality, we think it’s important to help women be financially independent. After starting to work with DuLocal, some of our cooks could eventually separate from their husband, for example.”
How do you think food can stimulate change? and what changes?
“I don’t think it stimulates change, I think food can and must BE the change. I started DuLocal because I saw in food the most efficient way to solve lots of the issues we have!
When you think about it: 50% of the inhabitable area on Earth is dedicated to farming, 80% of which is for cattle breeding and dairy production, but these productions only provide 20% of the calories consumed in the world. There is a big problem here - and as an engineer I couldn’t ignore it!
In Brazil, most of the land is dedicated to pasture, and productivity is 200 kgs of meat per hectare (about 1000 lbs/acre) per year at best. But on small scale vegetables land you can produce up to 100 tonnes of vegetable per hectare (about 5500 lbs/acre) per year and you create more jobs and revenue as well! It’s insane!
If we would change a bit the content of our meals and add more local vegetables, we could solve many of the ecological, unemployment, and poverty problems! The food system is both the problem and the solution!
Too many people don’t have access to quality food. If you develop a system that fairly pays the producers, you will create more productivity, more jobs and less people will be hungry!”
Do you think the future of food is necessarily plant-based?
Okay, I have to admit that I prefer burgers with bacon! I don’t want to eat soy-based burgers, I believe in real food ;) You can eat burgers from time to time, but you don’t need 150 gms (5oz) of meat every day! We just need to learn how to cook vegetables well!
We also need animals in the fields, we need cow poop to grow good carrots! I can’t imagine an agricultural ecosystem without animals, but to me, they are a small part that complements the vegetal production system.
I see, or rather, I wish to see a future where we eat mostly plants, that we prepare well, with care, and where we eat meat occasionally as a treat for special moments.
That’s why we provide plant-based meals at DuLocal, but maybe one day we’ll occasionally sell charcuterie produced by a local farmer. It’s all about quantity you know!”
You mentioned several times the “healthy” aspect of food, is that an important part of sustainability for you?
“Food has to be healthy! As Micheal Pollan said nutrition is still a young science, so it’s hard to tell exactly what is healthy. To me what’s healthy is to eat fresh and diversified food.
Pollan also said “eat food, not too much and mostly plants”. I believe in that, if you eat mostly local organic plants, you will be healthy!
I also believe in simplicity: eating food coming from a supply chain as short as possible is the best guarantee of a healthy diet!”
How do you define sustainability?
“Sustainability is when most of what’s in your plate has created only positive impacts until it reaches your plate (production and delivery).”
What would be your advice for our readers to be more sustainable?
Always have fresh local vegetables at home! The challenge is that, as they perish quickly, you need to be a little organized, but doing this is a good step towards sustainability.
Here’s my special tip: I always have a “backup squash” at home. Most squashes can last a couple of months on your countertop! When you have nothing left, you can just cut it, add a bit of salt, roast it and you have half of a healthy meal!
What’s your dream?
“That we live in a world in which producing food is as valued as intellectual work.”
Learn more: https://app.dulocal.eco/