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Food and Gastronomy as leverage for local development

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FOODEV (Food and Gastronomy as leverage for local development)

Reporting period: 2016-05-12 to 2018-05-11

Food and gastronomy are increasingly recognized as elements of regional innovation strategies, as they are considered able to contribute to regional and economic development both in rural and urban environments. On the other hand, food has a multifunctional character, as the food system is heavily implicated in many public policy arenas. One of the main issues to be addressed to support a more sustainable and integrated approach to place development is fragmentation, both among disciplines and policies. FOODEV addressed this problem, by carrying out a multidisciplinary and multi-method research to identify determinant factors that can support sustainable approaches to place development based on food and gastronomy.
FOODEV focused on: 1) providing a more holistic framework across different place development disciplines (rural development; place marketing and place branding; food tourism) to determine relevant food and gastronomy local resources transversal across domains, which might represent the core of food and gastronomy potential for place development; 2) investigating different stakeholders’ perspectives through case studies on opportunities and challenges emerging when trying to implement integrated sustainable place development strategies based on food and gastronomy; 3) investigating the “project sustainability” dimension within EU projects, through survey and semi-structured interviews to project managers and coordinators, to identify relevant factors supporting project sustainability.
The research has highlighted: 1) the need of strengthening the link among food, place, and people to support more sustainable approaches to place development; 2) breaking down silos among disciplines and policies, by pursuing participatory place-based and problem-based approaches to development integrating different types of knowledge borne by multiple actors; 3) overcoming the “growth at all costs” approach towards a type of development which is coherent with place and stakeholders’ characteristics.
First part of the research carried out a multidisciplinary literature review in order to bridge among different disciplines dealing with food and gastronomy (F&G) for sustainable place development and reducing research fragmentation. The results are published in an open access multidisciplinary literature review paper.
Once the theoretical framework was developed, a case study was performed to investigate to what extent the resources identified at theoretical level were actually used in a systemic perspective within place development strategies. This study looked at the mismatch between sustainability principles - which are widely accepted and promoted worldwide – and practices, which instead are still often unsustainable. The article produced highlighted the pivotal role played by boundary (change) agents as place-specific and place-based actors able to operationalize the sustainable development principles towards implementation.
A third step of the research dealt with the investigation of an under-researched but increasingly important dimension of sustainability: project sustainability. This dimension was investigated through a survey and semi-structured interviews with EU project managers and project coordinators. Another case study was carried out in Italy by addressing the long-term collaboration - born within a EU project - between a university and local stakeholders, to explore project sustainability within a case study context. This case study is reported in a fourth paper.

The second, third and fourth paper are submitted to peer-reviewed academic journals.

Besides academic conference presentations and articles, FOODEV findings were disseminated at multiple levels, including: 1) invited talks and seminars in Sweden, Italy and Norway; 2) multi-stakeholder workshop in Calabria (Italy); 3) 2 workshops with high-school students; 4) 2 articles, one in newspaper and one in magazine, in Italy and Sweden respectively; 4) Centre for Tourism newsletter (University of Gothenburg); 5) social media channels (Facebook and Twitter); 6) policy brief.
FOODEV results allowed a better understanding of: 1) place’s common, recurrent, and transversal local food and gastronomy resources across academic disciplines, and how they can support more sustainable approaches to place development if addressed in a systemic way; 2) the pivotal role played by place’s local boundary (change) agents, as actors able to appropriate the sustainable development discourse to make it relevant at local level. “Good” practices can hardly be imported from somewhere else, indeed the place development strategy has to fit the context in which it is carried out – the “what works for whom in what circumstances” place-based approach, which requires considering the peculiarity of local and regional contexts; 3) factors that support EU project sustainability, by providing an integrated framework across academic and policymakers/funders perspectives on the topic.

FOODEV has contributed to academic research in the field of food and gastronomy for sustainable place development, and offered several policy implications:

- Most recurrent transversal and significative F&G local resources across literatures were identified (Local food and Geographical Indication (GI) products; Landscape (terroir); Local food consumption places; Local gastronomy; Local food systems; Food events and festivals). They might represent the core of F&G’s potential for place development, but often each resource is considered within one policy sector (e.g. local food within agriculture, festivals and events within tourism). The result is that often policies might be conflicting, fragmented or duplicated. Mapping local resources and their correspondent policy sector to better understand how sectors, stakeholders and resources might be interconnected might support identification of self-reinforcing place development strategies.
- To support transitions towards more sustainable approaches to place development, “growth at all costs” mentality should be overcome: growth should be distinguished from development as the former means getting bigger, while the latter means get better by increasing in quality and diversity. Increasingly, it appears essential to reflect upon what kind of tourists and businesses may be deemed worth to attract to places. While deciding how to leverage on local available resources, knowledge and culture to increase the attractiveness of a place, it is essential to decide towards whom the development strategy is addressed, otherwise the place development strategy might lead to landscape degradation and ecosystems disruption, and socially might lead to conflicts between residents and tourists (e.g. overtourism).
- Place-based approaches to development should take into account not only the geographical area and available resources, but also the cultural elements constituting a place. Not only hard factors should be considered but also intangible factors related to entrepreneurial and political culture, history and local people’s characteristics.
- Governance for transitions towards sustainability entails involving different stakeholder categories into the development strategies, as sustainability challenges are broad and knowledge needed to address them is fragmented among actors. Integrating different types of knowledge might help identifying sustainable development paths.
Workshop with high school students
Workshop with stakeholders