BCFN Alumni Association – change makers for the future of the food system

BCFN Alumni Association – change makers for the future of the food system

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How should the younger generation approach the current challenges of the modern food system? We, the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) Alumni Association, are keen to share our approach.

In order to foster a positive change in the food system, we strive to make good use of the potential of young people who are involved in this field as researchers. In this active and committed community we share ideas and resources with the aim of contributing effectively to the development of a more sustainable food system.

This is done in different ways, including the dissemination of the Youth Manifesto, a policy recommendations document with seven operational proposals from the point of view of seven key roles in the food system: policy maker, farmers, activists, educators, the food industry, journalists and researchers. This document is the result of the work we did all when gathered for a two-day workshop in Parma, Italy, in September 2015. Through our efforts, the resulting document acts as a call to action targeted to all stakeholders of the food system.  The Youth Manifesto has been presented to a number of institutions, including the Italian Minister of Agriculture and the European Parliament.

Our BCFN Alumni Association was established thanks to the efforts of BCFN towards the empowerment of the younger generation and their role as change makers in the food system. Since 2012, the BCFN Foundation organizes an international competition of ideas for the improvement of agro-food sector sustainability. Every year, 10 teams of up to 3 members each are selected as Finalists, and these become members of the BCFN Alumni Association. This year, the BCFN YES! competition is targeted to PhD and post-doc researchers, offering them a 20,000 euros grant for research on food sustainability issues.

Each of the BCFN Alumni is also acting as Ambassador of this initiative, promoting the causes that are closest to them and acting as a role model in their network of contacts. Currently, there are 85 BCFN Alumni based in all the five continents. As well as carrying out some research activities as a group, a few of the BCFN Alumni are now working as researchers for the BCFN Foundation and six of us act as Geographic Representatives for the corresponding six geographic areas (namely Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Africa and Oceania). The diversity in terms of cultural and academic background is what makes the activities of the Association multidisciplinary and multiculturally significant.

The future of the BCFN Alumni Association is full of possibilities, as the network is enriched by the cooperation with other institutions and associations, all focusing on the themes of food sustainability. We are looking forward to do our part and lead the change, by contributing first hand to enhancing the focus on food-related challenges in education and policy making. As part of this we have recently launched a public consultation on the output from a series of workshops looking at climate risk and food risk. This is open until August 26th 2016.