First Locally Grown Food Exchange in the Central Slovenia region enjoys excellent response
The first Locally Grown Food Exchange in Central Slovenia took place last week in Ljubljana and exceeded all expectations. An initiative of the City of Ljubljana Department for Environmental Protection, the Regional Development Agency of the Ljubljana Urban Region (RRA LUR), Ljubljana Tourism and the Ljubljana Agricultural and Forestry Institute, organised in conjunction with development consultancy EKOmeter, the Exchange brought together food producers from Ljubljana and the Central Slovenia region and potential buyers from the public and private sectors. The more than 80 participants were initially addressed by City of Ljubljana deputy mayor Dejan Crnek.
The essential impulse behind the organisation of the first Locally Grown Food Exchange of this type was the desire of the organisers to promote local food self-sufficiency. Short supply chains have positive effects on multiple aspects of the sustainable development of the city and the wider region both in terms of the economy and environmental impact and as regards social relations – priorities that the City of Ljubljana has been pursuing for more than a decade.
The working meeting began with an address by City of Ljubljana deputy mayor Dejan Crnek, who welcomed the idea of bringing individuals and institutions together for the good of the health and quality of life of children enrolled in public educational institutions in Ljubljana. He also emphasised the importance of local food and local cuisine in ensuring a genuine experience for visitors to Ljubljana and said: “It is important that the journey from field to table should be as short as possible, and projects like today’s facilitate this.” The deputy mayor thanked the organisers and the numerous participants, among whom were representatives of Ljubljana nursery schools and primary schools, food producers from the Central Slovenia region and hotel and restaurant owners. He ended his address with the thought that the key to success lies in the synergy-generating interconnection of institutions and individuals, since “we win as a team”.
Gorazd Maslo, the head of the Rural Development Section at the City of Ljubljana Department for Environmental Protection, said that the strategic objective for the period 2014–2020 consists of providing high-quality agricultural and forestry products from a well-conserved environment in order to ensure the greatest possible self-sufficiency in the City of Ljubljana. “Our goal is locally produced food in Ljubljana’s nurseries, schools and catering establishments.” Schools and nurseries can currently purchase 20% of their food (up to a value of €80,000) outside the scope of the Public Procurement Act, under which they are obliged to select the cheapest supplier. Maslo added: “We are pleased to note that in recent years the percentage of locally produced food in Ljubljana’s nurseries and schools has increased from 6% to 12%, but our target is even more ambitious – we want to achieve a figure of 20%.”
Roman Medved, a project manager at RRA LUR, explained that the Locally Grown Food Exchange of the Central Slovenia region is a project that takes place under the umbrella of the European project ROBUST (Rural-Urban Outlooks: Unlocking Synergies), which focuses on strengthening relationships between urban and rural areas and is financed by the Horizon 2020 programme. The desire to foster cooperation between cities and their hinterlands in the fields of sustainable food systems, social infrastructure, new business models and cultural connections has brought together 25 universities, research institutes and public institutions from all over Europe. Medved added: “The ROBUST project facilitates the exchange of good practices in the field of food self-sufficiency and the search for innovative solutions designed to increase the amount of locally produced food in public institutions. Following the excellent response of all stakeholders at the Locally Grown Food Exchange, we will continue with similar initiatives in the Central Slovenia region in the future.”
Alenka Soršak of Ljubljana Tourism explained that since 2015 Ljubljana Tourism has been running the Green Supply Chains project, which developed from the realisation that there is not enough locally produced food to satisfy the demands of domestic and foreign visitors to the city. Locally produced ingredients are a trend in modern cuisine, which itself is becoming an increasingly important element of tourism in Ljubljana. For this reason Ljubljana Tourism joined forces with the City of Ljubljana Environmental Protection Department, “sustainable tourism factory” GoodPlace and the Jarina cooperative to begin offering hoteliers and restaurateurs in the capital and the wider Central Slovenia the possibility of a straightforward, organised supply of locally produced food (or, where this is not possible, regionally or nationally produced food) at competitive prices, with the aim of ensuring that local produce actually finds its way to the tables of diners in the city. Fifteen hotels and restaurants are currently participating in the project and to date an impressive 18 tons of locally produced food has found its way from farms on the edges of Ljubljana to hotels and restaurants in the city via Green Supply Chains.
The opening address was followed by a workshop at which representatives of schools, nurseries and hotels/restaurants looked for opportunities for business cooperation with food producers. The workshop was attended by 39 local food producers from the Central Slovenia region, 19 representatives of Ljubljana schools and nurseries and nine hotel/restaurant owners. All the participants recognised the business potential of the Exchange, while some have already signed cooperation agreements, and therefore look forward to similar events in the future.
For more information about the project, contact Tatjana Marn at firstname.lastname@example.org or Roman Medved at email@example.com. You can also visit the websites http://www.rralur.si/projekti/robust-prihodnost-mesta-podezelja-iskanje-sinergij and http://rural-urban.eu/