Thomas De Groot:
"Foodtopia started three years ago in Murcia, a university town in the southeast of Spain. Initially just a pop-up kitchen on the university campus, it was run by a collective of four passionate people from various backgrounds, from engineering to retail. “We were, and still are, worried about the future that we leave to our grandchildren”, says Jesús, one of the founders. “That is why we wanted to start a revolution in the perverse food industry”. And revolution is still needed, they claim. “The planet is warming at an alarming rate and as a global community we are simply not doing enough. People are already dying from climate collapse all over the world. The chaos will increase. Meanwhile, ignoring warnings from everywhere, we keep talking about economic growth. Our political representatives have abandoned us, or so it seems.”
The idea behind Foodtopia was to ask people to bring their leftover food to this campus kitchen, in order to turn it into communal meals for all. The response was overwhelming right from the start. Within a few weeks, the Foodtopia crew were feeding hundreds of people per day. Now, they have food hubs in many other towns and villages, that run complete circular systems, from local agriculture to production to communal meals.
“We are learning a lot from the urban farming revolution that happened in Cuba in the 1990s”, Jesús explains. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba lost their main trading partner. That, combined with stifling economic sanctions from the US, they had no choice but to radically change their agriculture and economy in order to stop the ensuing famine. Cubans turned to urban farming on a massive scale, pioneering techniques that people still use today, all over the world.
Food is more than just a means of sustenance, the people behind the Foodtopia project claim. It is the basis for community building, for civic life. Gathering food, or growing it, cooking together and organizing meals, it is all part of creating healthy and inclusive communities. And community members can only do their part to stop climate change if they work together. Jesús explains that Foodtopia strives for resilience in local food systems and that they all have a strong sense of urgency. “We have all seen the studies: our planet will collapse if we continue on this path of carbon dependence.
The Spaniards are not alone in their conviction. In cities all over the world, organizations are creating new social practices by building communities around food. Some work exclusively with food waste, others don’t. Some never charge any money for the meals and others expect one or two euros in return. But all share the belief that food stands for something much more: it is a symbol for civic sovereignty and social revival. “People need to feel sovereign in their neighbourhood”, says Jesús. “Food turns out to be the perfect starting point for strengthening the community by sharing resources.” (http://networkcultures.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/OUR_COMMONS_lulu.pdf?)
Excerpted from chapter 5, of the Book: Our Commons: Political Ideas for a New Europe. Ed. by Sophie Bloemen and Thomas de Groot. Commons Network, 2019 , see: Commons-Based Political Ideas for a New Europe
- Social Circularity: Food-sharing Platforms Are Re-inventing Urban Solidarity. by Thomas de Groot