Eating City Manifesto

The city eats. It eats food, but also it consumes the land needed to produce it. The flows created by an urban settlement in relation to its food requirements are very intense, important and of course inevitable.

Nowadays, more than half the world’s population lives in urban areas and this trend is accelerating more and more: in 2030 the 70% of the world’s population will live in an urban context. Taken into account the obvious consideration that a city does not cultivate food, it leads to above-mentioned unavoidable realities and issues.

Economic activities have changed over the past decades and short-sighted financial policies have resulted in a spasmodic and sometimes aberrant research to reduce production costs, with focus on labor costs, resulting in products’ standardization.

Today, there is a generalized situation in which many countries of the Old Continent have less and less competitive industry. The food industry also undergo the effects of globalization, thus outsourcing its production to countries with lower labor and energy costs, with two negative results: rising unemployment in our countries and the increase of greenhouse gas emissions due to the greater distances in food transportation.

Yet the food industry has, in recent years, undergone significant reconfiguration of the workforce and professional profiles – fact linked both to the industrial sector and agricultural production. Let us take, for instance, the conversion of farms into multifunctional companies characterized by a high share of young employment. However, agriculture is a sector that experiences a large influx of unskilled labor for seasonal employment opportunities: in our countryside and on our fishing boats, the number workers from other countries – especially from Mediterranean countries- is increasing. Therefore, on the one hand we have innovation, new job profiles, “rejuvenation”, while on the other hand heavy migration of unspecialized labor, which is often uncontrolled, constitutes a burden.

In European countries, food industry is now more often linked to the concept of “nutrition” rather than “feed”: and food is no longer just quantity, but also and above all quality. This fact and the relevant acknowledgement, typicality and nutritional values of food are the key elements in the future of Mediterranean-style agriculture.

The growing awareness of the relationship between nutrition and health leads us to consider the influence that dietary guidelines have on the food production and consumption (take for example the inclusion of larger amounts of fish in diets).

The city eats. It eats food, but also it consumes the land needed to produce it. The flows created by an urban settlement in relation to its food requirements are very intense, important and of course inevitable Sustainability regards all aspects ranging from production, processing, distribution and logistics. It is not merely a quantitative aspect: let’s think about CO2 emissions; we have access to foods that originate thousands of miles away. The valorization of local production (the concept of zero km) certainly entails a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the promotion of the local economy. This, however, also leads to a reduction of the variety and, to some extent, the culture of food. An irreconcilable contradiction?

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