Circular Economy for Food: A systemic interpretation of the circular economy through the holistic view of the gastronomic sciences

Franco Fassio and Nadia Tecco

In order to talk about the systemic approach applied to the food world, it is a necessity to consider two important players involved in this process. The first one, the Slow Food movement, founded in 1989, an international association that works to safeguard biodiversity, to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, to counteract the rise of fast life and to combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us. Since its beginnings, Slow Food has grown into a global movement involving millions of people in over 160 countries, working to ensure everyone access to good, clean and fair food. The second one is the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG) founded in 2004 by the first actor, Slow Food, in cooperation with the Italian region of Piedmont and Emilia Romagna. The main aim of UNISG is to create a new figure, the Gastronome, a new type of food professional, who learns about the entire food-production system, from agricultural origins through industrial transformation and distribution, with special attention to environmental and sustainability issues.

Thanks to the strong theoretical contribution developed at the University of Gastronomic Sciences, in particular within the Systemic Food Design LAB (SFD LAB), and great application opportunities which is in the bosom of Slow Food, the systemic approach is spreading and evolving in all areas that are part of the agri-food system: from production to consumption, from the packaging to the food places until you get to the cultural events for the promotion of values of the food itself. In the context of the gastronomic sciences, a complex system where different kind of actors interact with each other, Systemic Food Design LAB has the objective of developing, at a theoretical and applied level, a systemic approach based on the construction of valuable, collaborative and sustainable relationships applied to food in all its many meanings. Starting from an analysis of the flow of matter, energy and knowledge within each system and between one system and another, we study the structure of the overall behaviour of interacting elements in order to design relationships of value that narrate a system quality.

The systemic approach for Gastronomic Sciences is the glue that develops transdisciplinary systems, it is the builder of cultural bridges, it is a source of new perspectives because the food system determines the impact on the area and the community more than any other system. In the context described above, Systemic Food Design LAB is developing a project named “Circular economy for Food”, a catalogue of existing national and international experiences and new perspectives of the Circular Economy declined in the world of food. The main objective is to analyse projects where the underlying principles of the Circular Economy are applied, and through the Systemic Food Design approach to give empirical contributions with developed, developing and transition perspectives.

In addition, the project intends to observe through the systemic approach lens, the circular economy phenomenon, the first step towards a systemic vision, but that still has the defect to not change the hierarchical structure of the system. In fact, the main guideline of the circular economy – a gap must be designed so that it can become an asset to another system – generated in the current industrial society, closed systems themselves (companies recover their waste expanding their offering, talk about efficiency, but in the meantime do not dialogue with others and thus a monopoly continues) or open systems (situations where multiple realities interact with each other, develop business relationships), but in both cases, the economic model is not questioned but simply tweaked the undeniable order of resources. This paper is going to present specific examples where the Circular Economy principles are applied in the food system (to and from the actors of the food system) and in the second part of the article we are going to analyze every single case in order to lay the groundwork for an evolution from the circular pattern to the systemic model in the complex world of gastronomic sciences

Posted Oct-2017

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