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Future food leaders innovate solutions to food problems at Terra Madre

During this year’s Terra Madre Salone del Gusto event, that took place in Turin from 22-26 September, Hivos partnered with Slow Food Youth Network and Food Hub to offer a side-track for young food activists from around the world.  The organizations joined forces to offer tools, examples and inspiration for future food leaders, against a backdrop of a food transition that is imminent, yet undecided.

9 issues, 99 brains
The urgency for future food leaders is evident. The world is producing and wasting more food than ever and we are hitting the boundaries of our natural resources. Reflecting the myriad of issues we are facing and the amount of potential that can counter the current trends, a full-day event on the Saturday of Terra Madre brought together ninety-nine future food leaders from thirty-three countries. At this ‘SFYN-tank’, hosted by Arduino pilot project Casa Jasmina, young farmers, food processors, social entrepreneurs, chefs, product-designers, foodies and artists reinforced each other’s creativity and experience, by working on nine issues – moving from problem exploration to designing potential solutions. The groups were accompanied by experienced coaches and experts, assessing cases ranging from food education, to seeds conservation in the digital age, to bridging the urban-rural gap.

At the end of the full-day SFYN tank, the nine groups presented the solutions they cooked up during the course of the day. A group working on the issue of livestock farmers that don’t have access to easy affordable, hygienic, and certified slaughterhouses proposed to build a system where farmers can have livestock slaughtered on their own farm. Another group suggested to democratize food-labels to put an end to the jungle of labels on food products that leave consumers confused and helpless. Their idea was to design sense-making campaigns that invite people to vote for or against the use of specific labels on food products. Herewith sending out a clear message to organizations and companies whose labelling practices are ambiguous. Yet another group challenged all participants to take action as soon as they arrive home: “I need you to all go home, and teach some elementary school kids something that you’re passionate about. It can be growing food or cooking it, but as you know: an edible education is just as important as algebra is.”

Food Academies and Food Change Labs
The SFYN tank aimed to get the international group acquainted with design thinking and pressure cooker processes, as a means to make use of multiple brains in a short amount of time; to trigger fast idea formation; and to plant seeds of inspiration and collaboration that can grow into more established networks and projects in a later stage. The approach is reflected in Slow Food Youth Network’s ‘Food Academies’ and Hivos’ Food Change Labs. The Academies and Labs both take a systems approach, recognizing that if our interventions and activism are to be meaningful, we need to recognize complexity and employ a holistic approach to food. Explaining systems thinking therefore was made an integral part of the SFYN tank event and youth side events during Terra Madre. It was met with enthusiasm of the young food leaders, as if it felt empowering to reflect on one’s role in a larger framework of the food transition.

Building future food leaders
The overlap in approaches and the collaboration during Terra Madre was a first exploration of a partnership between Slow Food Youth Network, Food Hub and Hivos. All organizations have expressed their interest in a continuing partnership that focuses on building future food leaders.

Furthermore, the Slow Food Youth Network will further advocate within Slow Food International to take on one or two of the pitched-solutions as a Slow Food initiative over the course of the next-two years.

Terra Madre Salone del Gusto
Terra Madre Salone del Gusto is organized by Slow Food on a biannual basis and is the most important international event dedicated to food. Next to celebrating tasty food, the event raises issues such as climate change, the unequal division of food worldwide, preserving biodiversity and creating a better food system. The event brought together more than a million people from over 140 countries. Highlight was a by over 5,000 people attended parade that marked the beginning of this year’s Terra Madre.

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