Food and the cities

The book, curated by Andrea Calori and Andrea Magarini, Food and the cities. Food Policies for Sustainable Cities analyses the new relationship between city and countryside and how the food production becomes an “urban infrastructure”.

Food and the cities
Andrea Calori and Andrea Magarini, curated by, Food and the cities. Food Policies for Sustainable Cities , Edizioni Ambiente , 2015

 

An atlas exploring the link between food and the city to connect Italy to worldwide experiences in the field, Food and the Cities. Food Policies for Sustainable Cities (Edizioni Ambiente) was published last autumn, coinciding with the closure of Expo 2015 and the signing of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact. Now, a few months later, it is easier for the public debate to separate the Expo from the political controversy regarding the event’s organisation and management – and perhaps a good time to go back to this book.

The editors, Andrea Calori and Andrea Magarini, members of non-profit research centre ESTà – Economia e Sostenibilità, helped draw up Milan’s food policy. Their mission is to explain what applying food policies means and how the international – or rather, inter-metropolitan – debate can drive further progress in the decisions taken by Milan and Italy.
Andrea Calori e Andrea Magarini, a cura di, Food and the cities. Politiche del cibo per città sostenibili, Edizioni Ambiente, 2015
Andrea Calori and Andrea Magarini, curated by, Food and the cities. Food Policies for Sustainable Cities , Edizioni Ambiente, 2015

Leaving aside a statistic so frequently cited that it has lost all its bite – the fact that more people now live in urban centres than in the countryside – Food and the Cities has gathered surprising figures on the demographic and productive importance of agriculture in the city, which in 1996 the UN had already estimated as constituting 20% of all food production worldwide. Let us cite just two examples: approximately 80,000 community gardeners (plus another 16,000 on the waiting list) are active on Berlin’s publically owned land alone; 40% of Vancouver’s population is directly involved in some form of farming.

According to the editors, these and many other facts demonstrate that what is happening in the West (the book’s analysis focus, although it acknowledges the inspiring role played by Asian capitals) is a distortion of the relationship between city and countryside as we have known it for the past 60/70 years. After a long period spent repressing “the rural in the modern culture”, the victims of which include periurban belts, seen as lacking quality, dozens of metropolises have rediscovered – or had to rediscover in order to cope with ever more pressing problems – a new balance of the two dimensions.

Andrea Calori and Andrea Magarini, curated by, Food and the cities. Food Policies for Sustainable Cities, Edizioni Ambiente, 2015
Andrea Calori and Andrea Magarini, curated by, Food and the cities. Food Policies for Sustainable Cities , Edizioni Ambiente, 2015

We are talking about an ecosystem that, despite differing in size and set up in different countries, is centred on a reality of “urban plots and gardens, community cultivation, markets for local products, basic food awareness, shared kitchens, redistribution of food surpluses, complementary currencies for local circulation, or other micro-economies that are emerging in all phases of the food cycle, from production to re-use and recycling of organic waste and discarded food.”

In Hungry Cities Caroline Steel said that “Food shapes cities,” but Calori and Magarini propose a definition of food as “urban infrastructure”. Regulating potential action or supporting the spontaneous actions of the population will require changes to “social and economic innovation, welfare politics, the governance of urban areas, and even the mechanisms of representative democracy”, encouraging, in continuity with a historic component of the farming culture, “the maintenance and reproduction of a heritage that cannot be completely monetized.”

Andrea Calori and Andrea Magarini, curated by, Food and the cities. Food Policies for Sustainable Cities, Edizioni Ambiente, 2015
Andrea Calori and Andrea Magarini, curated by, Food and the cities. Food Policies for Sustainable Cities , Edizioni Ambiente, 2015
Certainly, although some rallying cries are universal – fighting poverty, improved public health, Milan’s objectives will not always match those of Bristol or Cape Town, just as the North American “food deserts” will hardly be allotted much space in Copenhagen’s agenda. Apart from local factors, the common challenge referred to in the book – the second part of which consists in a meticulous comparative census of existing experiences – will be that “of transitioning from needs to policies” to implement a “scaling up” from what are necessarily micro experiences to other more strategic and organised ones with which to generate a more harmonious system for the “urban organisation” of the world.
© all rights reserved

Latest News

Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram