Yesterday, on the 24th of May 2022, it was organized the workshop Policies and Strategies of Developing the Food System in Iași. The event was organized within the Food for Iași Living Lab hub by the Iași Cityhall and Romanian Academy, Iași Branch. The meeting focused on discussions with the representatives of the public institutions from the Iași food system and also tried to identify some issues from the perspective of the public authority. The identified views will be on the agenda of future meetings with other actors and agents of the urban food system.
The meeting had the following agenda:
- Opening remarks (Daniel Juravle, Deputy Mayor of Iași)
- Presentation of the Cities2030 project (Codrin Dinu Vasiliu, Romanian Academy, Iași Branch)
- Food for Iași Living Lab presentation (Ioan Sebastian Brumă, Romanian Academy, Iași Branch)
- Discussions on proposed topics (Moderators: Mihaela Popișa, Iași City Hall and Ioan Sebastian Brumă, Romanian Academy, Iași Branch):
- Identifying problems and solutions in the Iasi food system, eg: integration of local producers in the Iasi economy, public procurement of local products (school canteens, Milk and Horn program), and consumer access to local food.
- Integration of the project and the hub in the projects and actions of local authorities and organization of food events, eg: flying markets, CITIES2030 Workshop in the World Sports Championship 2023 – live cooking Food Court, public catering spaces at the Airport – local producers in the context of terminal 4 development.
Summary of discussions:
The discussions in this workshop were informal and, in the context of the objectives of the Cities2030 project, aimed to identify some of the problems of the food system of Iasi, in order to strengthen the communication environment on development policies and strategies, between administration, governance and other actors. of the food system. The views expressed were part of a process of active brainstorming and co-creation, which does not imply any institutional commitment on the part of the participants. The purpose of these discussions is entirely informal and is to identify possible issues that will be proposed further in discussions with other actors in the food system.
Discussions on the proposal of the event organizers regarding the integration of local producers in Terminal 4, to be built at Iasi Airport.
- The integration of local producers in the new terminal 4, of Iasi Airport, which is in the execution phase, will depend on the stage of completion of the works.
- Terminal 4 will have a large area, relative to terminals 1, 2, and 3. In the case of terminal 4, there will be three levels of one hectare each.
- Thus, the surface is generous for the commercial spaces but also for the spaces for promoting the identity of the city of Iași and the region.
- At the same time, airports are generally very tempting for companies that routinely use food court facilities.
- At the same time, in airports around the world, there are two approaches: renting predefined spaces or hiring companies that specialize in bringing big brands, including the food area.
- The importance of local brands, on the other hand, should not be ignored, because they even contribute to the identity of the airport. Every tourist should know that he arrived in Iasi through the visual messages from the airport. In this context, local producers are a component that could contribute to this institutional and local marketing.
- Opening up the issue of preferential tariffs, it was pointed out that there are certain legal impediments to these preferential tariffs if they were to be granted to local producers. Solutions to these impediments may need to be found.
- At the same time, the best solutions for the presentation and marketing infrastructure of local food brands must be sought at the airport.
- Thus, the locations with the strongest commercial and marketing impact are located in the security zone of the airport. But in these areas, there are problems with the packaging of local food proposed under local brands. At the same time, very clear criteria must be identified for the selection of the best and most representative local producers with a view to maximizing the impact on tourists and airport users. In this regard, local producers are encouraged to work more on presentation and packaging solutions.
- Local products can also be promoted in the food court area of the airport, in the form of cooked food.
- Iasi Airport is interested in promoting local brands and, implicitly, local producers. The brands of local producers come with attractive stories and can contribute to the development of the brand of the airport and the city of Iasi, but these producers must be helped. The Rural Development Research Platform Association already contributes to the support of these local producers, especially through the GustDeIași.ro platform, but also through the actions through which it is involved in the synergies with the Cities2030 project.
- But implementing such actions involves solving certain problems. With regard to local producers, they have to resolve certain issues related to both the organization of their offer and the associative structure under which they can develop this offer.
- One of the most important issues is the size of the supply from local producers. They should opt for larger forms of association, in order to come up with an offer to match the new traffic expected at Iasi airport, by building Terminal 4.
- Here, the weak associative culture of the local producers from Iași and from the North-East Development Region was underlined here.
Discussions on the associative culture of local producers
- In connection with the issue of the associative culture of local producers, the Association of Local Producers Produced in Iași and the BioNest cluster were mentioned as local models. Each of these associative structures must respond to certain challenges of enlargement and coagulation. The status of the main actors in the food system in Iași depends on this fact.
- At the same time, the need for the competitiveness of local producers was discussed. But in order to increase the level of competitiveness, the local government must also find new ways to support them.
- In order to increase competitiveness, good practice models can also be used and, for example, Produced in Cluj and Agrotransilvania Cluster have been given. At the same time, the Cities2030 project, through the size of the consortium, can provide models of European best practices.
- Another idea in this regard was that larger structures have the capacity to access more substantial funds.
- The idea of establishing an associative form such as a federation of food producers and associations was also raised. Because the NGO environment must also be supported and involved in associative and support actions for local producers.
- It was mentioned in this regard that the City Hall of Iasi already provides funding for such NGOs and these funding instruments should be developed in the future.
- The associative culture among local producers can also be developed through direct discussions with them, to identify problems related to poor coagulation, and find solutions, but also to motivate them to get more involved in associative actions.
- One problem in the associative culture of the region is that the small local producers tend to be content with their small businesses.
Local producer profile
- The profile of the local producer in Romania is not very clearly outlined. Some traders take advantage of this quality and operate under this umbrella, although they are not given any rights by an institution in Romania.
- A very important issue has been raised in relation to the profile of the local producer in the area of certification, the area of his concern for food security, and in relation to his contribution to increasing consumer confidence in local products.
- Certifications must be complied with.
- Food trade in the gray area of certification must be combated.
- We must always keep food security in mind.
- Successful producers must be promoted by all actors in the food system.
- Local producers, because they generally have small businesses, do not have the energy to invest in marketing and do not have any brand intelligence. That is why they must be helped to develop their brand and differentiate themselves from those who speculate on the quality of local producers, certified by state institutions.
- Market access for certified local producers needs to be further supported.
- Taxing the business for local producers can be an advantage. Card payments, and prepayments can give consistency and security to your business. At the same time, they can help personalize your clientele.
Another effect of the development of associative behavior among local producers. Involvement in the HORECA industry
- Although we have recently emerged from the pandemic, hotels in Iasi are starting to overcrowd. It is a sign that, in the near future, accommodation capacity may increase and, as such, the need for food products in the HORECA industry in Iasi may be an opportunity for local producers. Local producers can grow if they align with the new HORECA challenges of the urban food system in Iasi.
- A direct meeting was proposed between the local producers and the HORECA industry in Iași, but the issue of the representativeness of the local producers, who do not yet have a large representation structure, was recalled.
- Local producers, at the same time, need to adapt better and better to the HORECA industry.
- Although prices are higher for local producers, in the HORECA industry these prices can be justified by the added value of food.
- There are local producers who do not have marketing intelligence. Wine producers are more experienced in this direction and could be used as models of good practice.
Local events and the involvement of local producers
- Regarding the urban food events in Iași, dedicated to local producers or in which local producers are an important component, the discussions focused mainly on the events that frequently take place on the pedestrian Ștefan cel Mare, located in the center of Iași. , in front of the town hall, on the esplanade of the Central Hall square, Păcurari weekend market, flying food markets, neighborhood markets, Green Square in neighborhoods, thematic events, the international E-sports event, from 2023, thematic fairs (lavender and roses, local cherries).
- Păcurari Square is an example of good practice, but its infrastructure needs to be developed. At the same time, the issue of consumer parking needs to be addressed.
- Informing consumers about these events should be better organized.
- It has been argued that thematic events have a greater benefit for local food producers.
- The idea of creating a digital platform for centralizing and promoting local food events was born, a platform that could be initiated by Iasi City Hall.
- There are some overlapping major food events and this should be avoided in the future.
- Central Hall Square, considering the project of Iași City Hall to personalize the buyers’ experience, can also be an opportunity to locate and promote local producers.
- Food events need to be diversified to develop healthy eating behaviors.
- Consumers are looking for food shopping places similar to the markets or shops they have noticed during their holidays abroad.
- The Cities2030 project will include a meeting attended by most of the 41 partners from 19 European countries. This meeting can be an opportunity to exchange know-how for the development of the socio-economy of local producers.
- With regard to food events, activities with a food component in the metropolitan area should also be promoted.
Gastronomic events at the 2023 World Sports Championships
- The 2023 World Sports Championships are very important both in terms of scope and international character. At the same time, it is an event that attracts the very young generation from 100 countries. This event will take place in September 2023 and this date represents an opportunity for the actions of promoting local producers, carried out through Food for Iași Living Lab, within the Cities2030 project.
- As in the case of Iasi airport, this event brings tourists and local consumers to interact with the food culture of Iasi.
- Tourists are very interested in gastronomic culture. And they can promote through local gastronomic culture and local tourism or even local culture.
- At the same time, some gifts for participants can be thought of as local food kits.
- It can be discussed at a future meeting and in connection with the organization of a Romanian gastronomic evening within the event.
Promoting the idea of healthy eating
- The participants in this meeting also assumed the role of consumers and opened certain topics related to consumption in the food system of the city of Iasi.
- Thus, it was emphasized that all actors in the food system must contribute more to correct information of consumers, promotion of the idea of healthy eating, and promotion of successful producers.
- Consumer behavior needs to be stimulated towards a healthier diet and a focus on certified products.
- The most important challenge for us, the partners from Iași in the Cities2030 project, was raised by a participant who asked us what a local producer means, not from the point of view of a dictionary definition, but from the point of view of our directions of action. for the support of local producers. We believe that such a challenge must be carefully considered in the activities of the Food for Iasi Living Lab hub, in the sense of removing the local producer from the dictionary and bringing it to the center of our actions.
- Another challenge is the fact that the city of Iasi is an important university center. Thus, foreign students can be involved in promoting the local gastronomic culture.
- Although we are not explicitly focused on the issue of food waste, it has been suggested that we find a solution to integrate our actions within the project in this direction as well. Especially considering the local culture regarding food-wasting during the traditional Romanian events (weddings, baptisms, funerals, and so on).
- Another challenge is to connect our intervention actions in rural areas directly connected to the urban food system in Iasi. Thus, the evaluation of the agricultural potential of the metropolitan area or the updating of the agricultural registers from the nearby rural areas has immediate effects on the good functioning of the food system of the city of Iași.
- The discussion was opened for replicating the actions of the Cities2030 project in Iași and in other cities in the region.
Continuity of the workshop
- The issues raised in this workshop will be debated in future meetings with local producers, but also with other actors in the food system in Iasi, which will take place in the Food for Iasi Living Lab hub.
- Following these discussions, two questionnaires were created that will collect data on the opportunity to organize flying agri-food markets dedicated to local producers in the city’s neighborhoods and these questionnaires will be applied among producers and citizens to identify the best solutions. of interaction between them, but also to find out the needs and opportunities both in terms of food production and consumption.