RECUP, Active citizenship to fight food waste
By: Gulia Pietrollini 19/04/2023
From: GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade)
RECUP is a social promotion association active in Milan and Rome which aims to reduce food waste through the recovery of food surpluses in fruit and vegetable markets. The association represents a concrete response to combat food waste, the climate crisis and social exclusion through a model of active citizenship and territorial cohesion (1,2).
Federico Valentini, member of the Recup board, active in Rome, shares with GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade) the vision and commitments of the association on the front of food waste.
The objective of the association is to proactively reduce food waste (3) in its various forms by working directly or as intermediaries both upstream and downstream of the agri-food chains and managing the distribution network of food surpluses thanks to the collaboration with third sector entities, public institutions and private companies.
The activity of RECUP allows to recover 600 tons of food a year in the local markets, mainly fruit and vegetables but also baked goods such as bread and pizza, with which it is possible to feed over 3.000 people.
The experience of RECUP Rome
The association RECUP was found in 2016 in Milan and has also been operational in Rome since 2021.
“The Roman experience was born during the COVID-19 pandemic, in the midst of the emergency with the ‘Borghetta’ association. We prepared food parcels with other volunteers to distribute them to the people of the neighbourhood and we realised that there was a lack of fresh produce, fruit and vegetables”, says Federico.
RECUP currently recovers unsold products from 9 local markets of the capital. The first was the Corinto market in São Paulo in Municipality VIII. Other markets from Municipality VIII and other Municipalities then joined. From San Paolo and Montagnola passing through more affluent neighbourhoods such as San Giovanni, Prati, Trieste, to the more popular ones such as Montesacro, Ostiense and Val Melaina.
The activity takes place during the closing hours of the local markets thanks to the support of around 60 volunteers active in Rome.
1) Contrast to social exclusion
‘RECUP is the action of recovering unsold food that has lost economic value, restoring it to social value’. (1)
Counter the exclusion and the stigma linked to the need to access food outside the traditional commercial circuits, building a non-judgmental community, is one of the main purposes of the association.
RECUP recovers unsold items from local markets that are still good and fresh and redistributes them in boxes to citizens who need them, thus increasing access to healthy and nutritious food. (4) The social stigma of poverty disappears as there is no clear distinction between recipient and donor, the volunteers themselves can be beneficiaries of the recovered food.
2) Promotion of citizen participation and solidarity
Another of the purposes reached by RECUP is the promotion of citizen participation and solidarity through activities related to the reduction of food waste.
Federico explains to us what the model built in this sense is. ‘The role of citizens in reducing food waste must be proactive and central. To structure it a model has been created that revolves around the size of the local market to implement neighbourhood cohesion and raise awareness among citizens.’
The value contributed by RECUP activities does not only concern the environmental aspects but also the social ones in the context of the redefinition of relationships within the urban universe of Rome.
‘The market is seen as a meeting point, the possibility of uniting in a socially and ecologically useful activity, it also serves to weave new relationships, create new networks and disseminate good practices’.
3) Promotion of the aggregation, the Discosoup
The promotion of aggregation is another of the values that RECUP introduces in the fight against food waste and takes the form of events open to all.
Discosoup is the most important event organised by RECUP together with other associations in Rome including Slowfood Youth Network (5), Inspire Association (6) and Terra!. (7) It is repeated four times a year, once for each season, and is also a fundraising tool for the association.
During the event the food recovered during the day from the local markets is cooked to organise a neighbourhood dinner.
Places where the event takes place change from time to time for a specific reason, explains Federico. ‘The Discosoup is organised in characteristic and representative places of the neighbourhood’s dimension, in rotation we try to move in all the Municipalities, the last dinners for example were organised in Casette, in the heart of Garbatella or at Spin-time in the Esquilino district’.
During the event there are organised talks and open debates on the issues of food waste to raise awareness among the participants.
4) Collaboration and exchange of innovative anti-waste practices and projects
Promote collaboration and the exchange of innovative anti-waste practices and projects, both between individuals and between different associations, reducing the impact produced by food waste on the environment is essential to broaden the social impact of the association’s activities.
‘RECUP has managed to forge various partnerships with other associations or with bodies that deal with the distribution of food, including solidarity hubs, family homes and solidarity canteens’.
More partnership has been consolidated to obtain spaces of coworking, such as those with Talent-Garden or Marketing Espresso or with the Link company, which has made electric scooters available to move in an agile and sustainable way towards the markets.
The perspectives of the RECUP model
Federico also shares the future prospects envisaged by the association. ‘Spreading RECUP on the territory to reach more and more citizens to activate. The ultimate goal is to create a replicable model that has as its core a cluster of citizens built on the size of the market and a network made up of supporting services and partnerships that revolves around it’.
(1) Recovery Official Website. https://associazionerecup.org/home/#associazione
(2) Giulia Pietrollini. Roma Food Policy, the Food Council is underway. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.4.23
(3) Alessandra Mei. ReFood, two examples to reduce the Food Waste. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 29.3.23
(4) Giulia Pietrollini. Food donations, steps forward in US legislation. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 15.3.23
(5) slow food. Official Website https://www.slowfood.it/chi-siamo/slow-food-youth-network-la-rete-giovane-di-slow-food/
(6) Inspire. Official website https://inspire-ecoparticipation.com/
(7) Earth!.Official website https://www.associazioneterra.it/
# Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. wasteless, EU research project on circular economy e Blockchain. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 5.9.22