Among the rich program of Earth Workshop to be held this year at Terra Madre, a special seminar was dedicated to learning communities, a concept which Slow Food has been developing over the past two years. The concept refers to a group of people who form a reciprocal learning and teaching community based on Slow Food principles. Learning communities highlight education as a multidirectional rather than one-way process and aim to stimulate real and much needed cultural change through food education. They seek to change the mentality of the average consumer, developing his or her relationship with food through particular programs and activities.
In Italy school garden projects have triumphed as the most common form of learning communities, with over 150 school gardens developed with Slow Food convivia across the country. School gardens have been a catalyst for creating unique relationships between people of all ages. In many cases, it is grandparents who have the time to assist in managing the garden—while parents are working or during the summer when children and teachers are away on vacation—which strengthens intergenerational relationships. In addition, these projects build links between families, teachers, local convivium members and local authorities.
Great achievements have also been made by learning communities outside Italy. One such is in Germany at Darmstadt, less than an hour’s drive from Frankfurt. Here at Alice Hospital a new community has been formed to pursue the introduction of ‘healing food’ for patients. The project is being developed in collaboration with the San Giovanni public hospital in Turin, where hospital staff and patients have been participating in taste workshops and seminars on topics ranging from water quality to better food purchasing practices.