Francesca Allievi is a food sustainability researcher, consultant, and the President of the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) YES Alumni Network. BCFN YES is an annual competition that inspires young researchers under 35 to conduct innovative studies to meet global research needs on the sustainability of food systems.
When it comes to facing the complexity of our current food system, few things inspire me more than seeing positive change happen around me. Being the President of the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Alumni Association for the past year has been a real privilege in this sense.
Founded in 2009, the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN Foundation) is a private nonprofit apolitical institution. Working as a multidisciplinary and independent think tank, it is open to everybody and analyses the cause and effect relationship economic, scientific, social, and environmental factors have on food. The BCFN Foundation produces valuable scientific content that can be used to inform and help people to make conscious choices every day about food and nutrition, health, and sustainability.
BCFN also plays an important role in harnessing the power of youth to ensure that changes in the food system occur according to a more sustainable trajectory. Going from theory to practice, BCFN has held the Young Earth Solutions (YES) competition for young people since 2012, selecting ten teams (made of up to three contestants) of finalists each year. Teams that present both multi-disciplinarity and internationality have an advantage in the selection process.
Since the first edition, the contest has developed and evolved, and the 2016 edition aimed at reaching an even higher qualitative level by calling only for PhD and post-doc level researchers, younger than 35 years old and from any educational background. A one-year research grant for the amount of 20 000€ (US$21,367) was the first prize. With more than one hundred applicants from all over the world, surely it was not an easy task for the experts in the jury to select the finalists and only one winner out of them. All the finalist teams had the chance to present their research proposal at the 7th International Forum on Food and Nutrition at Bocconi University, in Milan. During that event, I had the chance to witness first-hand a range of inspiring, high-level presentations, spanning over many issues related to food sustainability.
Soon after the Forum, it was my pleasure to welcome all the finalists of this year’s YES edition into the BCFN Alumni Association, which gathers all the finalists of each edition of the YES competition. At the moment, we have 100 members in all the continents. Together, we act as a global network committed to sharing experiences and developing an even stronger impact on changing the food system. Through their own research, work, or business ventures, each of the BCFN Alumni contributes to a more sustainable food system in their own way and place. This is one of the reasons for which I value my role as President and feel very grateful for it: to see many young people striving to create the kind of change which is positive for the common good, while still preserving their own identities.
The BCFN Alumni have also had their say in terms of food policies: some of them contributed to the Milan Protocol, which was one of the documents on which the Milan Charter (legacy of EXPO 2015) was based and aimed and setting the ground for a new global food policy. Moreover, most of the BCFN worked together in 2015 to write the Youth Manifesto, a document with recommendations to the policymakers to improve the food system from the point of view of different stakeholders. The BCFN Alumni also participate in a number of events all over the world, including scientific conferences and meetings of international organizations, which offer them further opportunities to connect with investors, as well as other researchers and changemakers.
Personally, I like to think that this is only the beginning: I am confident that the BCFN Alumni will be able to achieve great things, both individually and as a group, and that each of the actions we are carrying out will be a small yet important contribution to an increased sustainability of the food system. Will you join the family of the BCFN Alumni Association? Learn more about the 2017 BCFN YES competition here.