Project Title: An Exploration of the Structure, Dynamics, and Impact on Quality of Life of Selected Short Food Supply Chains (SFSCs) in Italy and the United States
Students: Nathan Madonich and Sara Scinto
Mentor: Dr. Christopher Fink
The food production and distribution system in the U.S. has been characterized as efficient, cost-effective, and bountiful, but evidence exists linking this food system to environmental, social, health, and quality of life challenges. In contrast, short food supply chains (SFSCs), including farmers’ markets, community-supported agricultural farms (CSAs), food cooperatives, and GAS (Gruppi di Aquisto Solidali—solidarity buying groups) are characterized by a closer connection between producers and consumers and have been touted as potential solutions to these issues. In Italy, SFSCs appear to be more prevalent in food trade and commerce and this juxtaposition provides an opportunity to compare and contrast SFSCs in two cultural contexts.
The purpose of this project was to explore the dynamics of an SFSC in several settings in order to gain a better understanding of its underlying function, structure, and constructed meanings, as well as to investigate the lived experience of both food producers and consumers relative to various aspects of quality of life. We conducted structured observations and semi-structured interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders in these SFSC systems, both locally and in central Italy. Sites included the Seminary Hill Farm in Delaware, Ohio, the Campagna Amica market system and the Gruppi Organizzati Domanda Offerta (GODO) in Perugia, Italy, which is a large solidarity buying group associated with the Associazione Italiana per l’Agricoltura Biologica (AIAB). The resultant data was analyzed using theoretical frameworks from systems design and health promotion in order to develop a rich understanding of the role of the SFSC in the lived experience of participants in the system. The project is ongoing, but this presentation will focus on the theoretical frameworks and methods employed during the project, as well as the fundamental themes that have emerged to date from our work both in Delaware, OH and in central Italy.