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Food Systems in European Cities

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FoodE (Food Systems in European Cities)

Reporting period: 2020-02-01 to 2021-07-31

Environmental, social and economic pressures on agri-food systems (today and in coming years) are widely acknowledged, also beyond the academic community. In recent times, growing awareness, participation and concerns on food systems sustainability have permeated the European society, leading to a growing commitment among citizens toward sustainable food production and consumption habits. Numerous City/Region Food System (CRFS) initiatives have flourished in Europe and worldwide, moving public and private interest at different decisional levels and leading towards a real act of change. The process has certainly been accelerated by the visible threats caused by a near past focused on globalization and unsustainable economic growth, resulting in climate change, urbanization, diffuse poverty and resources depletion. The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic was just one further demonstration of the need for drastic change, not only with respect to an excessive global-based development model, but also with respect to a self-capacity of urban and peri-urban systems to provide for their own food needs.
Despite the above described spontaneous growth of awareness and participation, citizens and the food system itself continue to experience gaps in the construction of a fluid and functioning chain. Guided by the motto "Think global, eat local!", the European project Food Systems in European Cities (FoodE) takes up the challenge of bridging food system gaps and bringing to European cities (and beyond) a new model of development based on the creation of connections between local producers and consumers. The ultimate goal of the project is to accelerate the growth of sustainable City/Region Food System projects through the direct involvement of local and citizen-led initiatives. In order to achieve this aim, FoodE elaborates from a CRFS sustainability assessment framework toward the implementation 16 pilot project initiatives, spread across 12 European cities and regions (Naples, Bologna, Sabadell, Tenerife, Amsterdam, Lansingerland, Berlin, Oslo, Longyearbyen, Romainville, Iasi, Ljubljana). The project integrates the consolidated experience of a consortium of 24 organizations including universities, research institutes, SMEs, NGOs, as well as city councils spread across 8 European countries. Through demonstration and participatory design, FoodE will allow to replicate and upscale successful models of sustainable, fair and solidarity-based local food systems.
The approach of the FoodE project consists in a process of co-creation and cross-pollination between academia, citizens-consumers, producers, private actors and local authorities, enabling to ensure the application of the latest innovations and interdisciplinary knowledge to address real urban and regional contexts and needs. In addition, the project aims to create and disseminate knowledge of food systems via various tools that can facilitate and expand participation and awareness, with a particular focus on young minds and school pupils. The process consists of five steps: the definition of a methodology for the assessment of CRFS; the promotion of cross-pollination between European CRFS; the increase of access to nutritious and affordable food; the creation of a tool to mobilize CRFS stakeholders; the dissemination and upscaling of outputs to other European cities and regions.
After a year and a half from its beginning, the project has completed and laid the foundations for the achievement of some of the set targets. In particular, a consistent and Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) based on a methodological framework to assess CRFS has been defined, involving more than 800 initiatives, out of which more than 100 will provide data for sustainability monitoring. The cross-pollination process has also started, promoting local events and involving a wide range of stakeholders from the civil society, including citizens, students, entrepreneurs, public administrators and the scientific community. The involvement of school pupils - although slowed down by the pandemics, has been widely targeted through integrative activities, including webinars, online workshops and competitions. Whenever possible, participatory activities have been conducted with remote tools, finding great involvement in the co-design process by students and citizens through participation in international and local challenges and hackathons, survey tools, co-design workshops and focus groups. An App able to involve, educate and mobilize different types of users towards CRFS has been designed and prototyped. Finally, the project, its events and the knowledge it generated on CRFS sustainability have been disseminated to the society via multiple layers, both through the project website and social networks, as well as by scientific publications, press releases and communication activities.
Through the launch the participatory and citizen-science initiatives, and taking benefits also from the shared knowledge of the project partners, the FoodE outputs are expected to have impacts on job creation and income generation, strengthening the role of local communities in enhancing the sustainability of food system, as well as identifying potential win-win relations between the different actors of the food chain. Moreover, the FoodE outcomes are expected to drive several practical applications and recommendations for uptake within European food chains, both directly and indirectly.
In the short term, FoodE will directly create new job opportunities in EU cities through the implementation of the pilot projects (e.g. urban agriculture parks, vertical farms, aquaponic farm, small scale fishery in school canteen, circular economy restaurant, urban bee keeping), also involving fragile and disadvantaged social groups. In the medium to long term, FoodE will intensify the interactions between research, food production, cities municipalities, education centers, consumers, and citizens. Such network of food actors and stakeholders will be supported by both dissemination activities and dedicated support tools, enabling intense interactions also after the project ends. An example of these tools is the FoodE app that will ease citizen active engagement in identifying, monitoring and assessing CRFS initiative, to achieve an involvement and effective shift to local food consumption. Within networking and cross-pollination activities, a citizen-science approach will raise citizens awareness on CRFS sustainability and on the environmental impact of dietary habits, and enable them to become key actors in this respect. Activities dedicated to school pupils and young minds will allow to increase the awareness on environmental and social aspect of food production even among the youngest. In the long term, FoodE will enable the environment for positive economic, social, and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas, meeting the needs, values, and expectations of the EU society toward responsible and ethical food systems. Based both on the applied methodology for the sustainability assessment and the input received by citizens engaged, FoodE will elaborate on existing policies on CRFS and develop CRFS stakeholders maps for best practice identification, allowing to compile a European guidebook to sustainable CRFS.
Plant factory for social inclusion
Scalable growing systems for indoor plant cultivation developed by Tasen microgreens
A future Food hub for education, leasure and urban farming
Aquaponic educational farm in Berlin
Urban agricultural park in Sabedell managed by the Sabadell City Council
Beehives design developed by Urbani Cebelar
Urban agricultural park with farrmers in Naples
Rooftop farm - Nabolagshager
Sustainable restaurant with local products
ALMA VFarm pilot co-developed by Flytech and University of Bologna
Tomatoes grown on the rooftop greenhouse of the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.
Indoor farm in Bleiswijk
Plants grown in aquaponic educational farm - led by Metabolic Institute
Fish preparation for school canteens in Tenerife
Urban farm pilot project building under development in Bologna