Expanding effective practices for food rescuing and sharing among cities

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Imagine a city where surplus-food would not be wasted and would instead be rescued and shared among (poorer) communities.

In this intervention, citizens could have the leading role, having identified a social problem in the food sector, i.e. food waste and food insecurity. Whereas these issues are often regulated by governmental policies (e.g. food waste management and food itself), community-based actions could be undertaken by citizens to complement them. But how can such citizens' initiatives thrive? Such interventions require social resources to develop. For example, relying on a wider-community network could be of great support. Indeed, networks provide social movements with resources (human, material) and legitimacy (in the public opinion and political sphere. In addition, community-based initiatives likely have better chances of success while relying on an established organizational structure, including a well-defined distribution of responsibilities, roles and powers among community members, as well as some operating tools.

Such a project would entail taking actions outside/ at the side of the regulatory framework on the sector of food and as a response to it. However, this legal framework could possibly be an obstacle. Eventually, a problem may arise when community initiatives are asked to comply with regulatory policies, and they often do not have the capacity i.e. handling, financial, to meet these requirements. In that sense, strict regulations primarily designed for bigger interventions i.e. for businesses or big institutions, can hinder or even prevent citizens’ initiatives.

Eventually, facing these kinds of obstacles could reinforce opposition between the intervention proponents and governing bodies. A positive effect may be the strengthening of the political line of the movement and its establishment as an oppositional power challenging (dysfunctional) governmental policy. However, legal pressures to comply with the pre-existing framework reduces to some extent the potential impact of such projects.

How can we learn from such an intervention? The different processes featured here could be recorded and shared within community networks. Thus, similar setups may be likely to spread and develop, facilitated by the local bodies of wider community-networks. Additionally, activists could actively engage in sharing their knowledge and tools for facilitating the replication of the intervention in other urban contexts. Thus, similar initiatives would be likely to develop elsewhere, either by sticking to the organizational structure of the movement or by inventing different ways of operating.

Do you want to learn more about this scenario?

Take a look at the detailed description of Food rescuing and sharing in Berlin that has inspired this scenario.

This scenario fits under the approach:

  • Sharing and cooperatives for urban commons approach. This approach refers to a paradigm shift away from individualistic and exclusivity practices, which are embedded in modern urbanism and urban lifestyles in regards to particular resources and services. Sharing is a central aspect of commoning practices, while commons governance often takes the form of cooperatives.

It addresses some drivers of injustice:

  • Exclusive access to the benefits of sustainability infrastructure. This driver refers to the ways in which territory, identity, education, knowledge, and information are used to draw lines, privileges, and hierarchies between social groups, and especially to how this leads to an uneven distribution of benefits from urban sustainability efforts.
  • Unfit institutional structures. This driver refers to those aspects or functions of organizations, public offices,administrations and authorities that deal with urban governance and stand in the way of achieving just outcomes in urban sustainability.
  • Unquestioned Neoliberal growth and austerity urbanism. This driver refers to processes of privatization, commercialization, budget cuts and state withdrawal from various sectors and how they can undermine urban sustainability, guided by an ideology of unfettered economic growth which often aligns with austerity policies.
  • Weak(ened) civil society . This driver refers to the ways in which collective civic groups that share common interests (other than the state, the market, or the family) are either not constituted and impactful enough to influence and benefit from sustainability efforts or are indeed constrained by interventions that carry sustainability objectives.