Report from the “Alternative Food Supply Networks in Central and Eastern Europe” Conference
The first interdisciplinary food conference in Latvia “Alternative Food Supply Networks in Central and Eastern Europe: Towards New Grounds for Interpretation and Collaboration”, held at the Latvian Academy of Culture in cooperation with Baltic Studies Centre, took place on the 13th and 14th of October in Riga.
It brought together various researchers, activists and scholars from different disciplines, all interested in the unique experiences and practices of the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region regarding food supply networks and food governance. Topics presented during the conference included, among others, food-supply models, farming in CEE countries, shifts in consumption, cultural practices, food supply models (AFNs) and more. The aim of the conference was to translate diverse findings on food governance and alternative/traditional/local food systems into novel research and new theoretical approaches which then again could be used to advance knowledge about food systems by the CEE countries themselves, the Western and Southern European countries and supranational organizations.
The conference kicked off with an opening plenary session with Petr Jehlicka (“Sustainability hidden in plain sight: Lessons from Central and East European food practices”), who coined the term “silent sustainability”, and was followed by parallel break-off sessions, round table discussions on facilitating discussion and information exchange among the researchers studying food and sustainability in CEE countries, and various practicioners’ presentations on local slow food initiatives, food cooperatives and food waste reduction projects.
IPE was represented by Lilian Pungas, who presented the first findings of her research fieldwork on the Food Self-Provisioning (FSP) in Estonia, addressing various aspects of this phenomenon such as actors’ motivation, pro-environmental behavior and environmental concern (“Food Self-Provisioning (FSP) and Dachas – Same, Same But Different?”).
Conference organizers and participants hope that increasing evidence about the benefits of the alternative, decentralized food supply networks within CEE countries will have pan-European academic resonance and trigger discussions and research outside the CEE as well.