AlpFoodway: A project turning local food culture into an asset for the sustainable development of peripheral Alpine areas
“You are what you eat”, the saying goes. At AlpFoodway we think that you are also, “how” you eat, “when” you eat and “how you produce” your food. It is through cultural practices and traditions that food becomes an element of people’s identities. This is even more true in the Alpine region, where people have long depended on sustainable agricultural practices and, by doing so, have developed a distinct set of cultural values. AlpFoodway works to save these values and practices and to turn them into assets for local development by identifying them, reactivating their transmission and by marketing them in the most appropriate way.
In this historical moment, most young people move away from Alpine valleys, fewer children are born there and local people sometimes fail to recognize the value of traditional produce and preparations. This makes the work of AlpFoodway all the more important. As a matter of fact, not only does preserving and promoting traditional foodways mean preventing communities from losing their cultural roots but it also means safeguarding Alpine landscapes as well. Although communities sometimes underestimate their potential, these assets are essential for the attractiveness of mountain areas and therefore for their economic development.
In the last few years, all Alpine administrations have been experimenting ways to safeguard and promote food related cultural heritage, albeit in a partial and uncoordinated way. In comparison with previous attempts, AlpFoodway project is groundbreaking in many ways. Contrary to previous experiences, AlpFoodway aims at developing a heritage management model that is organic and sustainable. That is why the project partners have adopted a cross disciplinar, grassroots approach, bringing together food heritage, marketing and consumer culture. The project is revolutionary also because it develops this theme Alp-wide. Finally, by letting a set of shared values emerge, the project sets the bases for listing Alpine food heritage as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
To attain its goals, AlpFoodway has put up four different sets of activities. First the project maps foodways throughout the Alpine region. Second, it studies how consumers perceive food traditions and what makes collective promotion effective in order to devise new collective marketing procedures. Third, it tests new collective marketing approaches as well as educational formats for passing on traditional know how and effective marketing techniques. Last but not least an important part of the project is networking. Throughout the project partners work to build networks of local people, businesses and administrators to empower communities, who are the real owners and keepers of food related cultural heritage. They also create transnational networks that let the whole Alpine region take advantage of local experiences and foster the emergence of a shared Alpine identity.
AlpFoodway is a transnational project co-funded by the European Commission through the Interreg Alpine Space programme (2016-2019). It involves 14 partners from 6 nations: France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Slovenia. The project directly or indirectly benefits 70 Millions people living over the 450.000 km2 of the (Eusalp) Alpine area.
AlpFoodway project has been selected as highlight for the European year of cultural heritage and has been awarded the EYCH label for its contributions to this year’s goals.
What is a foodway?
Foodways are practices, traditions and rituals related to food production, transformation and consumption. The term encompasses, for instance, agricultural practices like cereal rotation or terraced vine growing, traditional recipes, the habit of baking bread in village ovens and consumption rituals related to specific celebrations.
Who are the project partners?
AlpFoodway is an Alpine Space Project coordinated by Polo Poschiavo (CH).
The other partners are:
- ITALY: Lombardy Region, Mountain Community of Camonica Valley, TSM -Trentino School of Management, Autonomous Region of Valle d’Aosta - Department for Education and Culture, Dislivelli Association
- AUSTRIA: University of Innsbruck School of Management
- GERMANY: Munich University of Applied Sciences
- SLOVENIA: Regional Development Agency of Northern Primorska L.t.d. Nova, Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Development agency for Upper Gorenjska, University of Innsbruck School of Management
- FRANCE: Bauges massif Regional Natural Park, Kedge Business School
- SWITZERLAND: Regional Center of Alpine populations studies
OFFICIAL WEBSITE http://www.alpine-space.eu/projects/alpfoodway/en/home