Building our network: solidarity initiatives growing across Europe

How is the Terra Madre and Slow Food network coping in the continued lockdown?

Fortunately, the online network and social media have proved to be useful to the real, physical network of producers, cooks and activists, reducing the sense of distance and isolation and creating space for new initiatives of solidarity. There are lots of examples from Europe and across the world, involving everyone from producers to vulnerable families and the elderly.

Beyond the physical restrictions which the virus has imposed, we feel that discussing the future of food – how we produce, distribute, buy and eat it – is more important than ever. And because the themes which we’ve made central to this year’s edition – starting with the importance of ecosystems, which have common frailties and share similarly common solutions, and the need for fairer resource distribution – have not lost an ounce of relevance. This experience is teaching us more and more every day just how beautiful and necessary our solidarity is, and the sense of belonging to a community: the values we believe in.

Today we bring you stories from the Slow Food network across Europe, certain they’ll be able to inspire our path forward in the immediate future.

The home delivery service of Slow Food Bizi-Ona in Pays Basque, France.

STRENGTHEN LINKS WITH PRODUCERS

In the Belgian city of Silly, a quarter of the population is elderly: the sector of the population most vulnerable to Covid-19. The local convivium has started the Silly Cooking project, preparing and delivering lunch-boxes to the elderly with meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables, together with a recipe, offering a valid alternative to the supermarket.

A producer in the Slow Food Terre Normande network.

In France, Slow Food Bizi-Ona Pays Basque is strengthening the links between producers and consumers, publishing a list of products that can be ordered (from lamb and cheese to fruit juices) and then picked up from 10 locations (restaurants, bars, bakeries, butchers, etc.) in the freshest condition. Meanwhile Slow Food Terre Normande is operating a farmers’ delivery service in solidarity with the rural community, and guaranteeing fresh, high-quality food to local people. In Rouen, on the other hand, activists and producers are countering the impact of the closure of farmers’ markets by organizing delivery services across several districts of the city.

In Romania, the Slow Food Cluj convivium is collaborating with the Community Emergency Response Team to provide food to the elderly and those in need, delivering food that is produced on the campus of the Agrarian Sciences department of the university. Slow Food Turda is working in a similar fashion, delivering bread baked in a communal oven to local people. Jim Turnbull, a producer in the Saxon Village Preserves Presidium, has decided to start producing hand sanitizer, given the lack of local availability.

In Spain, Slow Food Barcelona has reacted to the lockdown in Catalonia by encouraging consumers – who need quality ingredients more than ever – to contact producers directly. Now that the farming season is underway, numerous problems are emerging. On the one hand, small-scale farmers who grow a variety of crops are working without rest to deliver produce through home delivery, on the other hand, those who focus on just one type of food are struggling to sell their product. Take the case of the calçiots, the local spring onion. Daniele Rossi, the local convivium leader, tell us: “The consortium we work with has 40,000 unsold calçiots. So we’ve decided to launch a small campaign, asking people if they want to take some of the onions and to organize a calçotada in their homes, promoting the initiative on social media.”

In the same way, Slow Food Araba Alava has created a tool to facilitate contact between producers and consumers through a new e-commerce channel. They’re now working to organize further opportunities for dialog by taking the Taste Workshop concept online.

Slow Food in Turkey is working in close contact with the municipality of Izmir to improve the connections between the city and the surrounding rural areas. A distribution service has been put in place that delivers products from cooperatives to families in need, the elderly, and those unable to leave their homes.

In Ukraine, Tatyana Sitnik, leader of her local Slow Food community, has hosted the traditional seed fair online, allowing people to buy directly from local farmers and seed selection centers.

THE COOKS’ ALLIANCE

Food packages prepared by The Gannet.

At the hospital in Bayonne, the kitchens are open every day to the cooks of the Slow Food Alliance and the producers of the network who come to prepare meals for healthcare workers, allowing them to eat well and take care of themselves while taking care of their patients.

In the UK, the The Gannet restaurant in Glasgow, part of the Alliance, is working with food banks to produce packages for vulnerable people in the local community, with three deliveries a week. Also in Glasgow, Eusebi’s Deli is working with the Kindness Homeless Street Team to help deliver food to the homeless during the lockdown period. Every evening they bring meals to the central train station, where they’re distributed among up to 100 people in need.

In Ukraine, Larisa Titikalo is expressing her solidarity by publishing video recipes which use local products, inviting everyone to become chefs in their own kitchens. Furthermore, she’s organized the delivery of these local products across Ukraine. Among them is the Danube herring, which has been nominated for inclusion on the Ark of Taste, and the Brynza cheese. Her intention is to extend the project beyond the lockdown, making local farmers the protagonists of gastronomic tours.

In Albania, meanwhile, Altin Prenga, the chef of Mrizi i Zanave, has encouraged cooks and waiters at his restaurant –  which is temporarily closed – to take care of the gardens of the local elderly population: in this way, a significant portion of their terrain, much of which was heading for abandonment, can be properly cared for and thus guarantee fresh, good food in the summer, as well as another inspiration example of solidarity.

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