There is growing demand to bring consumers and farmers closer, evidenced by the steady rise in initiatives like farmers’ markets and organic food baskets collected at local hubs. According to EU polling, nearly one in two Europeans believes that eating seasonal and local food is part of a healthy, sustainable diet.
Creating shorter food chains to reduce food miles and strengthen local food systems is also among the objectives of the European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy and contributes to delivering the European Green Deal.
To support these goals, the EU-funded SKIN project created a large European knowledge-sharing network.
Sharing good practice
Short food supply chains are defined as those with a maximum of one intermediary between consumer and producer, improving access to fresher products and reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as distribution costs while promoting fairer prices for farmers. Delivering them often means rethinking how food is sold and delivered to consumers.
“Our aim was to reconnect the two ends of the food supply chain, bringing producers and consumers closer together and inspiring common trust based on shared values related to food, its origins and production methods,” explains project manager Fedele Colantuono, from the University of Foggia.
Knowledge about short food supply chains tends to be fragmented and shared only by small communities at regional or local level, Colantuono says. “That’s why we decided to set up a pan-European knowledge base and create a community of practice on this topic.”
The project brought together 22 partners from 15 European countries and developed a network involving 3 200 experts.
Together, they were able to collect over 160 good practice case studies focusing on short supply chains, detailing concrete examples of innovation in the field and sharing advice for replicating them.
The examples cover a wide range of sectors, scenarios and objectives. Examples include a search engine for Italian seasonal food, a local food delivery service in Ireland and a vending machine selling local products at Stuttgart train station.
All case studies are made available through the Good Practice Repository on the SKIN project website.
Better regulation around food
The project team also worked to identify bottlenecks hampering the development of short supply chains across Europe, and set out strategies for overcoming them.
One target area for such improvement is the development of regulatory frameworks at regional level and beyond. In the Apulia region of Italy for instance, the SKIN team worked with policymakers to develop and implement new legislation for better promotion of local products.
“The SKIN project highlights the role of universities beyond research,” notes Francesco Contò, SKIN’s scientific coordinator. “Through direct contact with the actors of the supply chain, we have been able to better understand their needs and the reality on the ground, and to develop concrete means to help disseminate the knowledge that was already there but not accessible to those who need it.”
The wealth of information collected by the project will continue to be shared and updated through the project website and the online platform of the agricultural European Innovation Partnership (EIP-AGRI).
Moreover, the University of Foggia’s Department of Economics continues to invest in dissemination activities, including the development of the community of practice, the creation of a dedicated platform and the launch of new projects about short food supply chains.