Food production and distribution systems


Last Friday 27th March 2020 we held our second episode of Cooperative City in Quarantine where we invited experts on food production and distributions systems from different European cities to share with us their perspectives on what are the challenges we face during COVID-19 in relation to food and what are the emerging practices we see. 

We invited Marcelline Bonneau from Bruxelles, director of Resilia Solutions and expert in various EU as well as local projects on food systems, Igor Kos from Maribor in Slovenia, part of the WCycle Institute and working on the  Urban Soil 4 Food UIA project focusing on circular economy and Francesco Paniè from Rome, part of Terra! Onlus that focus on transparency within our food system. 

What are the main challenges you see in the present moment?

Marcelline: We have been in full lockdown for ten days and there has been a rush to the supermarkets to buy most basic goods. Currently, the whole food system is being disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis and containment. Our eating and consumption patterns have been modified, e.g. an increasing number of people go and buy from the local shops, in short food supply chains (doubled or tripled in most cases). People cook (healthily) at home.  Yet, won’t this add to the mental load of women? Do they actually have time for it as in most cases will be the ones in charge of the home and education or children (in addition to working from home)? Will these become new long-lasting cooking and eating habits? At the same time, FAO underlines the risks of increased hunger and malnutrition of vulnerable groups. It can be so, for example, as the rush to food in supermarkets has concerned primarily cheap food, making it unavailable to those in need. Competition to access food surplus is fierce between charities. Discount lunches in public canteens are not available anymore, food aid has had to adjust its practices.  Those the most at risk and isolated cannot go and shop anymore. 

global and urban travelling: how will we move in the future?


Some weeks ago, I started teaching a course in Economic Geography in which to explain what globalization is and what are the mechanisms that feed this complex phenomenon. After the first face-to-face lesson, the course turned into a weekly virtual class maintaining “direct student participation”. I was lucky enough to be already used to this telematic approach. However, this technological change allowed me to explain even better what globalization means.

Starting with Harvey’s concept of space-time compression, a distinctive feature of the postmodern condition, the course explores the theories of “boundless world” (Ohmae, 1990) and “end of the story” (Fukuyama, 1992). We are not only talking about theoretical concepts and constructs, the idea is to understand how the concept of globalization has evolved since the end of World War II until the present days and its impact on our economic geographies. 

Globalization has a role in what’s going on worldwide these days. Since the 1980s, health epidemics have increased, both in the number and in the diversity of diseases, favored by the rapid improvement of international mobility, by a high population density in large urban centers and by health systems that are often lacking in some developing countries. All this promotes greater exposure to new diseases and a higher transmission potential. 




As a passionate urban cyclist, disguised as an academic working on sustainable mobility, there are few things that caught my attention during these dramatic, absurd, but utterly thoughtful quarantine days. At this moment the current object of my study – human movements – is on pause. Movements are dramatically reduced. Cancelled. Banned. Prohibited.

We are experiencing a stop that would have been unimaginable in normal circumstances. Something that we would have called “impossible” to realize until a few weeks ago. It’s more than 70 years that Europeans do not experience similar limitations to movement for precaution or imposition. And this is forcing us to live a very prolonged and spread “Traffic-ban day” – except the fact we cannot experience the positive consequences of re-appropriation of streets and public space, if not once a week in those few meters to go to the supermarket (even if cycling those few meters is so glorious right now, with the crosses and streets empty, and without the fear to die in a car accident every now and then).

So what I have noticed?

A positive outlook: Is COVID-19 paving the way for sustainable digital development?


Many resources are now assigned to the management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides dealing with these exceptional circumstances, we should consider how these new experiences could be adapted to other crises or trends increasingly infusing our daily life. Society has been relatively hesitant to act upon the climate crisis and digital development. Therefore, it might be worth looking into similarities between the current pandemic and sustainable digital development to derive a list of exemplary learnings that encourage a positive societal future vision

More and more, general conditions of society, politics, and the economy are altered through all three developments: Current paradigms need to be tested for purposefulness.