Exchanging Seeds Of Regeneration
Weaving Pollica and New York City together to grow healthier communities
Since the Middle Ages, food has always been conceived as the result of a plurality of elements perfectly balanced among them and managed in the collective interest.
Food is first and foremost a common good that indissolubly binds the individual to nature, capable of nourishing mankind and feeding the sense of community.
The Mediterranean lifestyle is undoubtedly the most tangible example of care and regeneration at 360 degrees, capable of extending to all dimensions of life. A model that from food and its values, has been forged and adapted over the centuries, through encounters, mixing, cross-pollination, and openness to other cultures, religions, histories, and peoples.
Especially in light of the current disruption and leaks today affecting both agri-food systems and the global society, we cannot keep this priceless heritage only within our national borders. In the same way, as the Mediterranean knowledge has evolved in time and space, also these days the Mediterranean heritage continues to expand in the world.
For this reason, the first international mission of Italy leading the coordination of the UNESCO Mediterranean Diet Emblematic Communities started in New York City, the origin of the discoverers of the Mediterranean Diet, as it is called today: Ancel and Margaret Keys.
Symbolically reconnecting Italy to the United States through the Mediterranean Diet was the purpose behind an institutional visit that led me to fly to New York, together with Benedetto Zacchiroli, President of the UNESCO International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities and Stefano Pisani, the Mayor of Pollica, representing the Italian Delegation of the UNESCO network of Emblematic Communities.
Schools: Places To Grow Healthier Communities
Schools are by definition places of learning. Besides topics and subjects, schools have a crucial role in forging children’s mentality, vision, and creativity, but also the ability to understand the complexity of the world and to acknowledge the consequences of our actions. Schools comprise the real fabric from which students begin building their futures.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the first mile of this institutional mission in New York started from schools and the need to create bridges between schools, through partnership.
This is specifically the story of two schools, so geographically distant yet so closely connected:
The Patroni School of Pollica (Italy), still continues to tangibly witness the values and care of the Mediterranean. These are students that live daily and first-hand, through the work of their parents and families, the principles behind the Mediterranean Diet, and are directly connected to their land and seas through the activities of attentive farmers, sustainable fishermen, producers of fresh, local food.
“The grass and the flowers are directly connected to the heart.” This sentence, pronounced by a school child in Pollica last year, on the occasion of World Earth Day, clearly expresses the sense of love and belonging to their territory.
The Community School 55 (Bronx, USA): right in the middle of one of the most difficult neighborhoods of New York City which, thanks to the courage and vision of a teacher, friend, and fellow in adventure Steven Ritz, has shown how food and the care behind food production can be incredible tools for social cohesion, inclusion, food literacy, and levers for a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. The Community School 55 is the first example where the Green Bronx Machine and tower gardens were introduced in schools, as a confirmation that school gardens can be vehicles for a kind of education that starts from “care” for life, health, and the environment.
“Green Bronx Machine is all about harvesting minds and cultivating hope: we’re seed spreaders and peace promoters,” as is usually said by my dear friend and well-known, innovative, forward-looking teacher, Steven Ritz.
Food therefore can unite schools and students regardless of their physical distance.
Signing a partnership between these two schools, a moment formalized with the planting of a school garden with seeds of the Mediterranean Diet, was, therefore, the natural result of the process of integral ecological regeneration: designing cities of the future able to grow healthy communities, able to empower the role of individuals — especially youth, able to share knowledge and vision, starting from food and education.
The art of togetherness to build the future together
Beyond a clear Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) dedicated to it (SDG17), the power of partnership is also reiterated in the Preamble of the Agenda 2030, included among the five P’s crucial to turn the current unregulated and excessive models into efficient, functional, inclusive, regenerative ECO-systems. This makes the need for a “revitalized Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity,” an urgent need.
It was precisely the need to strengthen bridges of dialogue and corridors of knowledge exchange that guided the partnership between Steven Ritz, Future Food Institute, Mediterranean Diet Study Center “Angelo Vassallo,” and Campustore, starting from one of the most real and daily dimensions of life: the school. Through this collaboration, Steven’s Tower Gardens will enter Italian schools — as part of the ecological transition of Italian schools (PON Edugreen) in addition to having directly planted the Mediterranean seeds in the US garden, our Paideia Campus will host the students from the Bronx, to let them experience the key pillars of integral ecology and regenerative agriculture at the heart of the Mediterranean Diet.
This is a partnership that, from schools, binds again two municipalities, Pollica and New York City, to reiterate the power of bottom-up diplomacy, the one that starts from the cities, streets, squares — the roots of community development — and their mayors — the first spokespeople of the voices and interests of their citizens.
For this reason, another magical moment consisted in the formal delivery of the seeds of the Mediterranean Diet directly from the Italian council for research in agriculture and analysis of agrarian economy (CREA) from the Mayor of Pollica to the NYC Mayor’s Office of Food Policy representative, Katie Mackenzie.
These are the kinds of dimensions that food can magically unite. Restarting from food to directly exchange knowledge and skills, to co-create together, forming real educating communities that pursue forms of collective and shared prosperity, to finally rediscover the time of presence, care, and beauty.
“Pollica 2050 — Mediterranean Living” is a strategic vision that focuses on the Mediterranean Diet as a framework of Integral Ecological Regeneration to enhance dormant resources and build a model of inclusive prosperity to foster an ecosystem that is capable of regenerating itself for future sustainability. The initiative is led by the Mayor of the Municipality of Pollica (Cilento, Italy), Stefano Pisani, and co-designed through a long-term collaboration with the impact-driven entrepreneur Sara Roversi and her global social enterprise, the Future Food Institute.