Changing the prevailing patterns of food production and consumption is a great challenge for all regions in the transition towards a sustainable, more circular, and climate-neutral economy.
The Farm to Fork Strategy adopted by the European Commission in May 2020 calls for a sustainable food system that ensures sufficient and varied supply of safe, nutritious, affordable food to all. At the same time, it stresses the need of a more plant-based diet with more fruits and vegetables, not only for reducing the health risks associated with bad eating habits, but also to reduce the environmental impact of the food system.
Citizens as co-creators of circular and low-carbon services
The LAB University of Applied Sciences (Lahti, Finland) and the Anttilanmäki-Kittelä citizens community are currently running the ERDF funded ASKEL project to ‘co-develop services for sustainable living’, thereby contributing to the implementation of the Päijät-Häme Regional Strategy and Program (2018-2021) and to the vision of Päijät-Häme as a resource efficient region by 2030.
Acknowledging that ‘the circular economy blossoms only through citizens involvement’, the project proponents looked at ways to close the gap between the conception of measures for circularity and emission reductions and their actual implementation by citizens and local communities. In doing so, they found great inspiration from the exchanges with the City of Mechelen (Flanders, Belgium), occurred in the framework of the CECI project.
Communities moving towards greener and healthier diets
As it happens with farming cooperative services and ethical purchasing groups, vegetable bags are transported by Torikauppa Pupu to the Anttilanmäki-Kittelä area, where they can be easily picked up. In this case, they also come with ‘easy-to-do’ recipes to help residents engage in environmentally friendly cooking.
Urban agriculture: an enabler for community involvement and development
The demand for healthy and locally sourced food expressed by the Anttilanmäki-Kittelä community is not an isolated case. It is indeed part of a growing trend that invests all Europe and urban agriculture. As the CityZen project is clearly beginning to show, it can play central role in responding to this demand, while also creating new business models and local sustainable development opportunities.
But local growth and consumption of vegetables and fruits is not a prerogative of small communities and middle-sized cities. It is becoming increasingly important also in large metropolitan areas and the case of Sofia (Bulgaria) is really telling in this respect. The Bulgarian Capital City has in fact decided to integrate urban agriculture into its sustainable development strategy and vision for 2050.
The digital map of publicly owned plots of land suitable for urban farming that is being developed is set to help the administration take further steps in the transition towards sustainable food systems. Among others, it will take to ‘the next level’ the ‘Urban Gardening Sofia’ initiative, which has already proved successful in stimulating local food production, disseminating eco-friendly practices, offering environmental education occasions as well as instilling solidarity and a sense of belonging in the community.
For more inspiration and information:
- Article about the ASKEL project
- Video about the ASKEL project, first workshop with Anttilanmäki residents
- Good practice, Urban vegetable garden: a circular sharing economy example in Lahti (CECI)
- Impact workshop on Urban farming (CityZen)