Panel 38

Disruptive crises? Reflecting on innovations, strategies and bottlenecks for the food worlds to come

Organizers: Agnese Cretella (1); Alice Dal Gobbo (2); Francesca Forno (2); Stefano Spillare (3)

1: Department of Philosophy and Communication, University of Bologna, Italy; 2: Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Trento, Italy; 3: Department of Sociology and Business law, University of Bologna, Italy

Topics: Ecological transitions and climate justice; Sociotechnologies of (in)secure worlds to come; Food networks and governance in postpandemic times; Innovation imaginaries, practices and policies

Keywords: Food crises; Socio-technical Food Inovations; Alternative Food Networks; Just and Sustainable Food Systems

The effects of Covid‐19 first and of the conflict in Ukraine thereafter have been nothing less than seismic from the perspective of production, consumption, distribution, retail and export on food supply systems worldwide. The issues faced are common across a variety of countries, evidencing above all the scalar interdependency of global food chains. Challenges ranged from the shortage of seasonal labour for agriculture, to restraint on exports, or the collapse of specific food industries and businesses. But if specific crisis conjunctures do raise obstacles to established food systems, they also open windows of change and transformation. In this context, the rise of digital platforms for food sales is of particular relevance. For instance, the share of people who regularly used ICT services for food provisioning was very low before the pandemic. The measures for the prevention of contagion, nevertheless, pushed people towards these technologies. Some alternative food provisioning ventures fully implemented ICT to expand their markets and sales for the first time. For others, it was an occasion to better implement and strengthen their service. In this way, many alternative food networks managed not only to strengthen their presence on territories but also to partially address problems of access, fragility and inequity with relation to food. Overall, many of these initiatives go in the direction of strengthening local, sustainable and solidarity food systems. There are however open questions in this regard. First, can these socio-technical transformations, which emerged from the peculiar pandemic situation, produce long lasting changes in the food system - or should we expect to be back to ‘business as usual’? Second, taking into account that innovative food ventures tend to be accessed disproportionately by privileged communities: what implications do these innovations have in terms of justice, equity and access to “good food” for urban populations?

This panel invites contributions exploring the ways in which communities, cities, national and supra-national governments have worked together to address the enormous economic and social impacts caused by Covid‐19 in the food system - in particular through the use of technology and social innovation. To this end, we invite empirical and theoretical which may include (but are not restricted to) the following themes:

  • How Covid-19 disrupted the conventional food system and re-shaped everyday life
  • How the 3C crisis of Covid, climate & conflicts has affected the way alternative food networks operate in terms of their discourses and practices
  • Urban-scale strategies to enable local producers to access local and diverse food markets
  • The role of ICTs in the reconfiguration of food production, distribution and consumption
  • Power and injustice in the digitalisation of food retail. Strengthening already powerful actors or an opportunity for alternative food networks and poor eaters?
  • How the economic and social impact caused by Covid-19 have affected access to food among ethnic, minority and marginalized groups