UNISG and the Ark of Taste Atlases
Since 2015, Slow Food has been collaborating with the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo to give new impetus to the Ark of Taste and increase the number of products being nominated around the world.
The University of Gastronomic Sciences was created in 2004 on the initiative of Slow Food, who long before such an idea was obvious recognized the urgent need to starting training new professional figures, known as gastronomes. A gastronome has interdisciplinary knowledge and skills in the science, culture, politics, economics and ecology of food and is able to develop values like sustainability and sovereignty in global food systems, while also having an understanding of all their phases, from production to consumption. The cornerstone of a gastronome’s education is a profound comprehension of the value of food and its important role in creating and shaping society.
The Ark of Taste thus represents a strategic project for the university, perfectly in harmony with its mission, and has become an integral part of its research and teaching. During their study trips, a unique element of their curriculum, the students visit food businesses, consortia and communities all over the world, where they have a chance to see the theories learned in the classroom being put into practice. On these trips they conduct research aimed at identifying and documenting gastronomic products at risk of extinction, candidates for boarding the Ark of Taste. The students also have the chance to carry out work experience and write dissertations relating to the Ark of Taste catalog and to designing ways of communicating, promoting and adding value to the project at a local level.
These include the “Ark of Taste Atlases,” an initiative involving the publication of books documenting the gastronomic and biocultural heritage protected by Slow Food’s Ark in a specific area, written in the local language and in English. The first Ark Atlas was published in 2017, with a pilot project in Peru. The aim of the Atlases is to give greater local visibility to the project, presenting the catalogued products, raising awareness among communities about the need to avoid losing this heritage and promoting responsible, sustainable consumption. They are also tools that the local Slow Food network can use to develop initiatives to protect and promote the local food biodiversity and gastronomic heritage, in collaboration with other actors from the local food system—restaurants, NGOs, public institutions, universities, research centers, associations, tourism boards and so on.
To date, books about the Ark of Taste products in Peru, Brazil, Kenya and Mexico have been published, and presented at international gastronomic events.
The Atlases in Italy
In the 2018-2019 academic year, the University of Gastronomic Sciences, working with Slow Food, launched a project aimed at adding value to regional Italian food biodiversity. The project directly involves UNISG students in both the documentation of the products and the design of tools that can be used to improve the visibility and usefulness of the project in local areas. This project is integrated into the university’s curriculum and involves a close collaboration with the regional coordinators of Slow Food convivia and food communities. Taking the information collected over the years for the Ark of Taste as a starting point, the UNISG students, overseen by lecturers and staff from the university and Slow Food, carry out research with the objective of producing a printed book about regional gastronomic heritage in Italy. The partnership with local actors has two purposes: improving and increasing the activity of gastronomic mapping in local areas, while also synergistically developing initiatives aimed at promoting the project and more generally adding value to the best local food and to tourism destinations.
The decision was made to start with three Italian regions: Liguria, Puglia and Calabria.
For more information on the Ark Atlases, email Dauro Zocchi at email@example.com.