In the framework of Foodiverse, the Italian team focused its attention, among other subjects, on a local initiative that took the form of a CSA and that inspired part of the research that was recently published in Agriculture and Human Values.

The paper by Giovannini, Forno and Magnani addresses two main questions: what motivates individuals to become part of Civic Food Networks and how does this influence the variety of food entering their households? And how does participation in a Civic Food Network impact people’s daily food practices, with a particular focus on diet diversification? 

The findings reveal that altering dietary habits poses various challenges both at the individual and institutional levels. This process involves the stabilization of ingrained habits, adjustments to daily routines, and the reinforcement of shared norms. Furthermore, it underscores the critical role of food policies in promoting sustainable eating practices.

The article can be accessed here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10460-023-10526-3

One of the main research topics fostered by Foodiverse, is to draw the attention on Civic Food Networks as a particular subset of Alternative Food Networks that strongly emphasise the citizenship of the actors involved, including farmers, and their active engagement in the agrifood system. Some insight on that topic are provided by Marina Carrieri de Souza, Oscar José Rover and Francesca Forno in a recently published article: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2023.1130082/full
The objective of that paper was to identify CFNs within the Trentino territory, evaluate farmers’ participation, and answer if CFNs are contributing to the promotion of agroecology. Data were retrieved starting from Nutrire Trento (the living lab of the Italian team) and led to the identification of 19 agroecological family farmers who participated in the study. CFNs are still embryonic in the area analyzed because of difficulties in the collective organisation of farmers, due to the territorial structures that favour long commercialisation chains, monoculture, and individualisation of farmers, imposing restrictions on innovative and sustainable processes. However, the study also highlighted that there are initiatives contributing to the promotion of short food supply chains, the establishment of spaces for debate, and the participative construction of innovations for a more sustainable local food system.

Members of the Polish FOodIVERSE team were guests of a seminar organized by Campus Living Lab. This is a project led by the Jagiellonian University in Krakow that aims at disseminating the Living Lab approach. Campus Living Lab is going to be an open and collaborative space that enhances the community’s well-being by implementing useful research and co-creating solutions for a better future. We are proud that the experience of FOOdIVERSE may help to fulfil this vision.

Campus Living Lab webpage: https://calila.id.uj.edu.pl/en_GB/start

The Norwegian FOdIVERSE team has prepared a video promoting our Living Labs. In the Hadeland region north of Oslo, SIFO researchers are working with a Community Supported Agriculture initiative.

Representatives of FOOdIVERSE project took part in the “Joint Conference on Food Systems” that was held at the Philipps-University of Marburg on 4th of October 2023. The event was an occasion to exchange knowledge, experience and research results between three teams conducting projects under the SUSFOOD2 and CORE Organic Cofund. In addition to the members of our consortium, representatives of the FOODLEVERS and SysOrg projects attended the conference.

All of the teams presented their projects and their most important findings. Then we organised the working groups to discuss them in detail. We found out that there are many common challenges in our research projects. For example, we had similar problems with research sampling in quantitative research.

“Joint Conference on Food Systems” proved that we can maximise the impact of transnational research projects thanks to exchange between them. This event should be considered a good practice and replicated in future research project calls.

We have prepared a video presenting our activities in the FOODiVERSE project. We hope that thanks to this we will contribute to the discussion on the sustainable transformation of food systems.

In the pursuit of resolving the challenge surrounding the diversification of the food system and with the goal of crafting a “diversification roadmap” by the project’s conclusion, one of FOOdIVERSE’s working packages is focused on establishing dedicated living labs in each of the five participating countries. The Italian Team’s chosen living lab is “Nutrire Trento” (Feeding Trento), a local sustainable food initiative that operates akin to a food council. Its primary objective is to collaboratively develop a comprehensive food policy for the city. The analysis of this living lab raises methodological questions spanning various academic and non-academic domains, actively involving institutions and civil society.

In this context, Transdisciplinary Action Research (TAR) emerges as a valuable methodological tool. TAR effectively amalgamates aspects of participatory action research, participatory democratic processes, and participant observation. This methodology proves particularly adept not only at dissecting intricate societal issues—such as those integral to food and socioecological transitions—but also at formulating practical solutions that yield tangible impacts on society.

A first methodological contribution in this sense has taken the form of an article published as “research proceedings” in JEOD (Journal of Entrepreneurial and Organizational Diversity), available here: https://jeodonline.com/jeod_articles/doing-transdisciplinary-action-research-a-critical-assessment-of-an-italian-lab-like-sustainable-food-initiative

The FOOdIVERSE team met in Krakow on April 24-26, 2023. The host of the meeting was the Institute of Sociology of the Jagiellonian University.

The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss the results of the research carried out so far. We summarized our analysis of consumption patterns in different socio-spatial contexts. A report is being prepared which uses data collected during focus groups in Norway, Poland, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. Another completed task concerns the legal framework of the food system, which was described on the basis of desk research and interviews with key informants. The team recently completed case studies of various food supply chains. The aim of the research was to search for interconnections between agrobiodiversity and the socio-economic organization of food provisioning.

FOODIVERSE Living Labs operate in each of the partner countries. During the consortium meeting, their current functioning was discussed. The exchange of experiences between teams allows us to better optimize the activities of individual Labs. Another benefit from the meeting was the planning of work related to the dissemination of research results. In the coming months, they will be presented during scientific conferences. Publications on various aspects of the diversity of food systems are also in preparation.

Re-shaping our food system. Better today than tomorrow!

A networking event took place on Friday, 20th January 2023. The local Food Policy Council of Gießen, the Municipality of Gießen and the chair for Food Sociology of the University of Gießen invited citizens interested in a food system transformation to join the event. More than 120 interested participants attended the first event of this kind in the town hall.

The mayor of the city welcomed the visitors and underlined the importance of a food system transformation as well as the possibilities that the municipality has in this regard.

Key note speaker was Dr. Susanne von Münchhausen (Food Policy Council, Frankfurt https://ernaehrungsrat-frankfurt.de/en/about-us/). She outlined possible drivers and barriers that enable a food system transformation. Based on results of a research project, she emphasized the necessity to include various actors as well as the role of food system diversification and motivated the audience to become active for change. Networks are crucial when it comes to innovate for change.

One way to accelerate a food system transformation is to increase the amount of organically and regionally produced healthy food in public catering for schools and other public canteens. A couple of local projects were presented during the networking event: one project educates children regarding food, food waste and cooking. It was coordinated by the municipality of Gießen and a major caterer of school canteens. Another project aims to create regional value chains for regionally produced organic products which are offered in school canteens. The audience was invited to join a first meeting on 23rd of February to search for opportunities on how to increase the amount of organic and regional food in public canteens.

Several local initiatives presented themselves and invited participants to get to know them during an exhibition. They invited the audience to also join their initiatives after the event.

After a break with very tasty soups and time to network and learn more about the initiatives the networking event continued with a presentation about the connections of organic farming and biodiversity, about seasonal gardens in Gießen, a potential House of Food and an initiative which empowers a whole city district by putting food in the centre of life in this district (besides others by public gardening and the initiation of a food cooperative).

It was a great, informative and motivating night, which hopefully brings momentum to a food system transformation in the municipality of Gießen and districts beyond.

The FOOdIVERSE project raises questions about the role of diversity in food systems. We presume that diverse food systems could be more resilient and more sustainable than homogeneous ones. But what makes the food system more diverse? Prof. Stefan Wahlen, presented our research on that topic at the Future of Food Symposium 2021 which was held by the Centre for Business in Society, Coventry University.

The project was co-financed by the NCBR, BMEL, MIPAAF, RCN and DEFRA within the framework of ERA-NET SUSFOOD and ERA-NET CORE Organic Cofund Joint Call program