RMIT: EdiCitNet conference entices city dwellers and planners with Edible City Solutions

In February 2022, RMIT Europe, Humboldt University Berlin and the city of Andernach hosted the first ever Edible Cities Network Conference as part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 innovation action project, EdiCitNet.

The virtual event was attended by hundreds of people from around the world eager to exchange ideas and share examples of best practices related to Making Cities Edible, bringing together grassroots activists, social entrepreneurs, policymakers, academics plus residents from the EdiCitNet cities and beyond.

“The EdiCitNet conference was a unique opportunity to invite researchers and practitioners of edible city solutions to the same table and unite theory with practice,” said Dr Ina Säumel, Principal Investigator of EdiCitNet and Assistant Professor at Humboldt University Berlin.

Mary Clear, the founder of Incredible Edible and the ‘rockstar’ of the edible city activism movement, and Professor Jörg Niewöhner from Humboldt University Berlin, opened the conference with some stimulating reflections on food, communities, the Anthropocene and how to bridge the knowledge and action gaps in between.

“Mary and Jörg really set the scene for the event and ignited the fruitful exchanges we saw between scientists and practitioners,” said Dr Anneli Karlsson, Coordinator of EdiCitNet in the city of Andernach.

Innovative edible city solutions such as urban farming and beekeeping, food waste programs and community kitchens aim to support a more sustainable urban environment and the conference also provided a platform to discuss ways to successfully integrate them into city planning.

“A key goal of our project is to offer practical advice to decision-makers in policy and business to address the societal and environmental problems facing our communities and cities today,” said Professor Jago Dodson from RMIT University’s School of Global, Urban and Social Studies.

The two-day discussions also emphasised the importance of engaging communities and building partnerships with city dwellers if edible city solutions are to see success.

“Besides making our cities greener, in many cases we’re also talking about rebuilding the human-food connection – teaching people of all ages to see food production and consumption in a new light,” Dodson said.

With its announcement of the winners of the EdiCitNet Awards, which were organised for the first time in 2021, the conference celebrated inspirational grassroots projects.

Founded by everyday people in EdiCitNet’s partner cities of Oslo, Berlin and Carthage, the four prizewinning projects were awarded for their innovation, relevance, inclusivity, impact and potential for upscaling or replication.

From teaching preschool children about food waste to inspiring teenagers to become urban gardeners, the projects demonstrated an abundance of vision, patience, dedication and enthusiasm worthy of recognition.

“We heard throughout the conference that small actions matter,” said Nevelina Pachova from RMIT Europe who hosted the awards ceremony.

“These inspirational initiatives demonstrate how we can all play a part in promoting sustainability; it’s amazing what can be achieved when everyday people take action and become the change they want to see.”

EdiCitNet promotes edible nature-based solutions to inspire a more sustainable urban environment which not only contributes to climate protection but paves the way for new green businesses and the generation of local economic growth.

By encouraging more meaningful, fulfilling and inclusive relations between people, EdiCitNet strives to foster a change in consciousness and a renewed sense of connection and belonging between humans and nature through food.