These recent times of crisis have presented governments and the global community with unprecedented challenges: the importance and essential value of the food supply chain is emphasized by all parties and yet, the risk is to lose sight of the true protagonists of the food system: farmers, fishermen, artisans, and cooks who develop economies of proximity, a source of subsistence and income for local communities, and a source of nourishment for the entire population.
Local communities need to lead the change: if change is not implemented by them, it will not happen. And change must start now: immediate action is needed to ensure that all players in the food system, so essential to safeguarding our future and our planet, preserve the economic strength to survive the current crisis. The emergency has confronted us with the evidence that the model of infinite development indifferent to social and environmental values pursued in our recent history is not sustainable.
When I talk about communities, I am not referring to societies defined by bureaucratic and legal constraints, but to groups of people based on relationships, shared languages, traditions, habits, experiences, and memory. They have firm roots, but are open to exchange, to learn new knowledge. Just like food, which has a strong bond with the territory and tradition, but at the same time, they are the result of travel and migration.
The Communities envisioned by Slow Food need to represent change, but they also must work to achieve it, adopting more sustainable practices (e.g. choosing organic and biodynamic agriculture, renewable energies, recovering abandoned areas and regenerating degraded land, building supply chain agreements on their territory, etc.) and more inclusive ones (creating new jobs for young people, women, migrants or disadvantaged groups, sharing and making available their experiences and good practices). These Communities are already alive and practicing the paradigm shift that Slow Food has long hoped for.
For this reason we decided to create the Slow Food Resilience Fund to support projects capable of connecting many different subjects: farmers, breeders, fishermen, artisans, restaurateurs, shops, buying groups, producers’ markets, schools, cultural and tourism operators. These actors represent one of the great excellences of our world, caring for rural landscapes, biodiversity, culture, artistic and architectural treasures, the health of the environment and citizens. Those who become guardians of beauty and knowledge. And who make economy, not only poetry. A healthy, relationship-based economy, based on cooperation and not competition, based on care and respect and not on the plundering of natural resources.
The Fund for change is an investment in long-term biocultural diversity of our food chain. We know that COVID-19 is not the last crisis we will face; climate change is putting pressure on all links of the food chain. By injecting extra funds to local community initiatives that need most support now, we will help them survive the current crisis and build resilient economies and communities for the future, with good, clean and fair food front and center.
With this Fund for change, we want to involve companies, foundations, institutions, individual citizens, to create a great network of solidarity, to support the communities of change in every region of Italy. For a slow, wide spread and joyful revolution.
By Carlo Petrini