How the Municipality of Empoli has mitigated the social effects of the Covid19 outbreak: the role of circular economy and civic volunteering
From the very beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak (early March 2020) most Municipalities in Italy had to organize strategies and actions to reach and support the weakest parts of their populations (people aged 65 and over, quarantined people, families with disabled or clinically vulnerable members). The total lockdown of non-essential commercial activities and the severe restrictions on individual travels and free movements imposed by the National and Regional Government (the #stayathome recommendations) to slow the spread of Coronavirus, have deeply modified everyday behaviours together with social distancing. The shopping for necessities was then becoming a critical issue to deal with and the main reason why people did not attend the rules in the first days of the lockdown. The Mayor Mrs. Brenda Barnini made a public call to volunteering and charity associations to organize a sort of “food chain” integrating also the support of local food industries, local farmers, local groceries. The support actions can be summarized: 1) widespread service of home delivery of fresh goods and medicines to citizens (twice per week) purchased in local stores the same day; 2) Food packages delivered once a week or every two weeks; 3)Freshly cooked meals delivered to homeless and rough sleepers; 4)“Suspended” bread/pizzas with the support of local groceries & pizzerias; 5) Distribution of central government "food cheques" for the foodstrugglers6)Free points for food donors in local groceries
Government fundings for food cheques: 258.000€ (800 food cheques). Direct fundings from Municipality: 23.000€ to support the food package service and toll-free numbers volunteers. Most actions have been possible thanks to free donations and volounteering activity.N° of volounteers: 500, 10 associat.
Evidence of success
This practice can be considered as good for the measurable reMarked increase of number of volunteers involved (most associations have registered an increasing number of people who became volunteers during the Covid19);
Food packages delivered monthly before/during Covid19 crisis: 580/1000
Fresh food home delivery before/during Covid19 crisis: 30/80 families per week Number of local food store/groceries involved in the local circular economy system before/during Covid 19 crisis: 2/30
The most defying challenge was the involvement of local communities. The widespread presence and role of associations has also encouraged people to develop circular economy practices with their neighbours, thus increasing a feeling of mutual solidarity and cooperation among local communities.
Potential for learning or transfer
The practice is potentially interesting for the role of volunteering system in the organization of emergency support activities to citizens in the Covid19 outbreak. Moreover, the system of green and civic economy, operating in the area of Empoli for more than 15 years now, has proved to be the key factor to create connections among the local government and local food industry and agriculture to strengthen the process of recycling of unused products. This practice also helps to foster the transition to local circular economy promoting the use of exceeding goods, as well as the support of small and medium-sized food/agricultural enterprises in the implementation of good practices in the field of circular economy. Local circular economy has represented a concrete support to fight against isolation and growing social inequalities which were becoming more and more visible during the lockdown.
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