Can Gastronomy Meet Sustainability? Shaping a new vision of public food services

By Valentina De Gregorio, IUC Food, Law and Finance Student

Since 2010, La Bergerie de Villarceaux (70 km from Paris) has been hosting the Eating City Summer Campus, an experience which brings together young researchers, senior professionals, opinion and community leaders from the civil and private sector to open the debate around the most pressing issues related to the urban food systems. This year, the 5th edition of the Campus was dedicated to the increasingly debated topic of Gastronomy facing Sustainability, together to share a new vision of public food services. I had the chance to join 27 dynamic food professionals from 13 different countries, and to spend one week to think whether and how recipes could drive the shift of paradigm of our food systems, for example by reducing food losses and wastes and moving towards more sustainable and healthy diets.

For several hours a day, smaller and larger groups produced, discussed and exchanged ideas on social, cultural and environmental factors could be considered when cooking, especially at the time of large distribution and food chains. What we immediately recognized was the intrinsic political value of food and the fact that changing recipes would imply a change in the socio-economic framework of food. We all felt empowered and privileged by the possibility of being among passionate young people coming from different backgrounds, all gathered by the desire to be the future food influencers and decision makers.

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A specific attention was paid on the link between food, gastronomy and cities. These are usually called into question for their incapability to meet the needs of people, such as the right to adequate and sufficient food. Nowadays, rapid urbanization, transformation of agriculture, food systems and rural spaces are creating new challenges as well as opportunities for inclusive growth, poverty eradication, economic, environmental and social sustainability, support of local food systems and economies, food security and nutrition. Several conversations concerned the need to leverage the possibilities and the space of the city to guarantee political coherence, and in particular the appropriate combination of food production, long term socio-environmental sustainability, rural and urban development and the pleasure of gastronomy. Our final contribution, a common declaration for Valencia world food capital 2017 for building up sustainable food systems, represented the diversities of our visions, the desire for political innovation and the recognition of the necessity of taking food seriously.

Personally speaking, I recognized in the group the vision and education that I received. Since I was little, I have been surrounded by a family environment which passed me the importance of a good, clean and fair food. Food is the first thing, together with drinking and breathing, which allows animals to live. Feeding ourselves is a primordial activity that allows us to be living beings. For this reason, I was energized seeing my colleagues reinforcing the idea that food must be subject to a special care and attention and that it cannot be treated as any other commodity. Behind food lie histories, identities, exchanges, cultural heritage, the labour of human beings, commercial choices and models of governances. As the Italian philosopher, Vito Mancuso, reminds, “nutrition, evolution, ecology, economics, politics and social justice are realities much more interconnected than we believe they are”. Food must be perceived as a whole: we need to analyse the multiple aspects referred to, as they deal with the international scenario we are currently witnessing. That is why I chose to combine my studies in Food, Law and Finance at the International University College of Turin with amazing opportunities, such as the 2017 Eating Cities Summer Campus.

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