Today, Higher Education Institutions can, and must play their role in promoting a spirit of innovation and encouraging a sense of responsibility in the transition towards Sustainable Food Systems.
Not only must they work to transfer knowledge between Professors and their students by teaching the concept of sustainability in an integrated and interdisciplinary way, they must also foster an efficient exchange of information and experience between Education & Research on the one hand and enterprises and civil society on the other.
Eating City has understood this challenge well and has teamed up with the I.S.L.E Education for Sustainable Development Network in order to be right at the heart of this important approach.
ISLE is an association which was created in June 2012 to continue with the work carried out during a EU-funded Erasmus Networks project (2010-2013) which involved 39 partners from 30 European countries interested in fostering and transferring innovation concerning the concept of Sustainable development in the teaching of Life Sciences.
Consequently, the ISLE Network members are predominantly International Higher Education Institutions specialized in Agriculture and Food. They have been working on sustainability issues since 2010 and therefore, it was a natural choice to combine efforts on how to profoundly change the current paradigm of Sustainable Food Systems using interdisciplinary teaching, research and students in selected universities on one side and the expert professional experience of Pubic Food Service in Eating City on the other.
And what better way than to use the main link that exists between ISLE and Eating City: the training of future decision–makers in Higher education as a lever of change.
However, knowing that sustainable development can only be achieved through collective decisions, Higher Education must not neglect to work with entrepreneurs and elected representatives in order to make that change.
In fact, as the Coordinator of the ISLE funded project at the time, I had already learnt about the Eating City Platform as early as 2011 during one of the Consortium meeting in Italy and I was intrigued to find out more. Of course, working with and in Higher Education, I was also curious to know how Eating City was able to attract more than 25 young people (all from different backgrounds, but all concerned by better food systems) each year to attend a “Summer Campus” for more than 10 days to share their vision of public food services in cities worldwide!
Being unable to attend the 2015 edition, I was very excited to be able to travel in August this year to their annual venue, the beautiful “Bergerie de Villarceaux”, a sustainable eco-centre situated 60 kms from Paris with its on-site accommodation, restaurant and own organic farm.
Coming from a more academic professional background, it was interesting for me to see the model set-up used by Eating City to exploit cross-fertilization during their summer camp. All the participants and speakers were able to stay on site together for the whole camp which automatically created a wonderful melting pot of ideas and opinions, not to mention friendships. In between collaborative rapid-fire speakers, all addressing a different side of food systems sustainability were “Food Thinkers” and “Food Lab” sessions. These focused on the main points of the presentations and enabled the participants to put all their energy and creativity into contributing to the writing of a final text called the 4th “Villarceaux Declaration”: the final deliverable of the Summer Camp.
I am therefore, in my current role as the President of ISLE, very honoured to be an integral part of this new collaboration and am looking forward to the outcomes of the actions that ISLE and Eating City, together with our respective partners, will carry out in the near future.
Our first objective is to apply the Eating City Methodology to Higher Education and for the younger generations who wish to change the paradigm for sustainable food systems: the organisation of a “decentralised” Eating City Summer School, based on the same methods of the campus but with different selection process, to be held at the University of Teramo, Italy in 2017, is currently underway.