Food as a Local Development Factor

From the 13th until the 16th October, Turin hosted the Third World Forum for the Local Economic Development. “This Forum is an opportunity for promoting LED (Local Economic Development) as a mean to implement the future global agenda and foster thesharing of best practices for local policies in the world, for a sustainable, social, environmental and economic development” (Source: Led Forum Turin 2015)

The discussion relied on sustainable development, innovations, creating relations and positive rapports among the civil society subjects, and even about food. “From the food as a good to the food as a right” is the title of one of the panels set on Wednesday 14th, during which two key points came out, common in many other discussions: every citizen has a leading role and the necessity of building a new food paradigm.

Everyone is a key player

“Man is what he eats” is the famous quotation of the german philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach. According to him, we must care about what we eat, in order to understand who we are and, above all, what we want to be.

But how the breakfast biscuits we ate are made? Or the inviting pasta that marks our lunch time? Let’s take a simple example, like a fruit: a banana. It contains potassium,a lot of vitamins and other beneficial nutrients, but it’s not all. Every food carries a story. The banana you buy carries the story of its soil, of the men that worked hard on it, that took care of the plant and gathered it. It carries the story of the truck that transported it, the driver and the lands it crossed before arriving at your supermarket, in your basket, and, finally, at your home.

When we buy, we contribute at the same time to build these stories. But if someone told you that some of your supermarket foods carried a story of exploitation, land and human beings mistreatment, pollution, thefts and compensations not received, what would you do? It’s almost surreal, but sadly true: the 80% of the people that tonight will surely go to bed without having dinner are farmers from developing countries.

They produce food but they’re still starving. Our actions build realities. It’s not about our own freedom of choice, but it’s about improving labels transparency, spreading correct and exhaustive informations about products, in order to make our consumption choices much more aware. It’s our responsibility, as buyers, to ask from where our food comes and about his real price (social, economical and environmental).

A lot of associations work both at local and international level, supporting the purpose for an ethic and equal food, and they can guide us: for example, the World Fair Trade Organisation, or the italian Coldiretti, both present at the conference.

The food as a right is people centered, it doesn’t entrust the management of the question to a “few big ones”. We are called to act directly for changing the idea of what we deserve.

We have to build a new paradigm

What has been said doesn’t take, itself, to the complete resolution of the question. We’re still missing something: a new, wider perspective about food. A new, shared vision.

Even if we, individually, would not waste the food we bought, this still didn’t mean reaching the “zero waste”. We have to count the loss in the whole production chain. A loss that doesn’t depend on technical problems, but on aesthetical choices: the 40% of what we produce doesn’t reach our tables for an appearance question. According to EU Indications bananas must be longer than
14 centimeters and the cucumber’s curving musn’t exceed 10 millimeters.

How many rules are necessary? What can we eradicate and which principles do we have to ensure? Development must start from the base and then broadening the reflection to all the fields involved: from the re-thinking of the production chain, of the producing methods, of the rights to respect,of the quality standards to unburdening burocracy’s practices and to the choice of the policies to adopt.

A reflection that has to involve historians, sociologists, anthropologists , specialists, associations,  public administrations, the politics world and many others. The food policies determine the increasing of one’s country development. There are a lot of virtuous examples of adopting good practices in small realities or small projects.

An interesting case, to analyze and be inspired by, is the one of Curitiba city, South Brasil, where every new house built receives from the municipality a fruit tree and another ornamental one, where the rubbish is swapped with vouchers, and it’s not over.

Another case, closer to us (as italians), is the Turin city one: the aim is serving local and seasonal food in the school canteens and buying from the equal trade the products that are not available in the city.

Originally written by Sara Marsili. Translated into English by Camilla Marchetti.