Shortening the food chain means reducing the steps between producer and consumer until they are in direct contact with each other. This can bring significant benefits to the consumer, such as freshness and quality of the product. Seasonal foods arriving on our tables with reduced transport and fewer intermediaries are able to better preserve their organoleptic quality and their nutritional value.
Short chain also means getting in touch with many aspects of daily life linked to food culture, such as the link with nature, with the knowledge and flavours of the territory and also different territories that each bring their own specifics.
Choosing food whose production, distribution and consumption respects the environment, workers’ rights and the consumer is therefore a step in the direction towards environmental, social and economic sustainability. Small producers who sell directly from their farm or to local markets, and who protect the land and local products by practicing sustainable forms of agriculture, are able to carry on their precious work thanks to the new focus on sustainable nutrition.
The reduction of intermediaries between producers and consumers allows consumers to pay a lower price for fresh and quality products, and can guarantee a fair price for the producer, which in a way can protect labour rights and even the environment. Creating a mutual trust relationship between production and consumption promotes mutual support and the possibility for consumers to have a more participatory and direct control over the production methods adopted.
Shortening the distance also reduces the need for polluting long-haul transport. Sustainable agriculture tries to implement ‘kilometre zero’ practices as much as possible, for example, the reduction of the distance travelled between the places of production and those of consumption. Of course, this isn’t possible for all products, as there are certain areas where it’s impossible to find a satisfactory range of suitable foods and nutrients, but the prevalent use of seasonal products and of the land as well as the rediscovery of certain varieties with particular organoleptic properties can allow the reduction of the use of faraway products.
Sustainable agriculture also deals with waste management, both organic and that derived from packaging. It reuses the first to enhance soil fertility or through composting so as to avoid degradation, instead for the second, it attempts to reduce the amount of packaging used during transport and retail.
The theme of food therefore encompasses various fields, including health and the environment, but also the cultural and economic sphere, and involves many different people throughout the territory: Citizens-consumers, businesses, public administrations, with implications for areas such as catering, public canteens (schools, hospitals) and private, local tourism, crafts etc.
Strengthening sustainable production and consumption is not only feasible but is also a process already under way: In all the provinces involved in the ERG project, there are already well-rooted activities in place that we can identify with sustainable short chain food supply:
- There are several structured and developed institutional projects together with private actors or the territory’s associations, such as those relating to public canteens, the reuse of waste products from large-scale distribution or food sectors such as bread, support for organic and local farming initiatives through producers' markets, cultural initiatives, initiatives defending biodiversity;
- There are private initiatives of restaurateurs, distributors and other forms of business that prefer, value or promote the products of the sustainable short chain.
- Finally, there are many civil society initiatives, carried out by associations and organised consumers, who are concerned with spreading the culture of sustainability and promoting individual producers or networks of organic, local, sustainable and solidarity producers.