Food assistance towards food security: the first local workshop in Tuscany (Italy)

On the 1st of February 2016, the first (out of two) local workshop was organized in Florence (Italy). UNIPI team collaborated with Caritas, who is very active in food aid in Tuscany and aims at establishing an “Alliance for food”. The main goal of the workshops is to engage key players in exploring multiple plausible futures in order to test food assistance plans and strategies in a wide range of contexts.

The first workshop on “Food assistance towards food security” was held in Florence, by University of Pisa TRANSMANGO team in collaboration with Caritas[1], a key actor of charitable food assistance in Italy. In recent years of economic crisis, Caritas carried out many initiatives in response to the increased demand of food aid, both at national and local levels. This has been also the case in Tuscany, where we live and work, and where food insecurity is a consequence of poverty and inequality, not of scarcity of food. A complex network of flows of resources, actors and practices – which we consider as a “system of practices” – is facing new pressures and challenges, such as reorganization of European funds, increased awareness of food waste and surplus recovery and budget cuts to the welfare system.


The workshop is part of a wider case study, which entails  a literature analysis, several interviews and on-site visits . The objective is to explore how food assistance actors are re-thinking their role to deal with the challenges of the current context of change. The purpose of the two planned participative workshops is to engage key players in exploring multiple plausible futures in order to test food assistance plans and strategies in a wide range of contexts.
The choice of cooperating with Caritas is linked to its recent initiatives contributing to the debate on the right to food. In particular, Caritas aims at establishing an “Alliance for food” in Tuscany, which envisions the integration and innovation of food aid practices at local level.

In this first workshop, we brought together around 20 people from Caritas and its Emporia of solidarity, as well as social public sector employees, experts of the food system, representatives of the large-retail sector and of the regional Food Bank.
The workshop started with a visioning exercise, that asks: how do we want food assistance to be in 2030? Participants were encouraged to think about the most desirable future for food security and, more specifically, to the ideal future for food assistance in Tuscany. They were asked to write down their thoughts on post-its and cluster them into main themes: rights, governance and networks, person-centered approach, education, monitoring, food waste and food quality were identified as the main vision elements and, after a screening vote, three were chosen as priority goals for “rich picture” and “back-casting” exercise (see previous post by Joost Vervoort).

During back-casting, participants tried to work backwards from the desirable future to the present, identifying all the steps and actions needed, overcoming the limitations and constraints of the present. This turned out to be a challenging task, because of the difficulties not only in imagining long term ideal goals, but also coming down to concrete actions, that should take place in the medium, short terms.

The second part of the day has been devoted to scenario development. By downscaling European scenarios to the local level, each group tried to reflect on the meaning that each scenario has for food assistance in Tuscany. After the “ideal future” envisioning exercise, participants were asked to identify themselves within a specific scenario. Each group elaborated a causal map representing the main variables of the system according to the views of participants.

The day was fruitful and stimulating, also according to participants comments. They were enthusiastic of being involved in this special process and willing to continue to the next step. The second workshop is scheduled for early May. It will be focused on stress-testing the action plans developed to achieve the desirable goals identified under the different scenarios. We will try to keep up with the expectations!

[1] Caritas is the Pastoral body of the Italian Episcopal Conference to promote charity.

Authors of this blog: Francesca Galli and Sabrina Arcuri from the University of Pisa, Italy.


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