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Patrizia Fracassi. An alliance between women is a common commitment

Sustainability / -

patrizia fracassi

The Senior Nutritional Analyst and Strategy Advisor of the SUN movement talks about her work with teenagers. The movement works with the WFP (World Food Programme), UNICEF, WHO (World Health Organisation), FAO, and the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) and counts Save the Children among its partners.

What is the commitment of SUN for girls?
SUN is a movement, an open space where we encourage countries that, in turn, work with different sectors and different partners, to commit against malnutrition. The first SUN framework took place in New York during a general assembly of the United Nations, when a number of organisations joined with the scope of fighting malnutrition. The movement Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) was born from this framework, the first group of five countries joined in 2010 and since then as of today 55 countries are part of the movement, including Malawi.
What is the role of young people in the movement?
Civil society is one of the SUN movement networks and it is the most dynamic one. It also works with parliamentarians in many countries, for example in Africa there is a network called Youth Parliament giving voice to young people to face the issues. For us, girls are the drivers of the movement. The goal remains nutrition but as a partnership, we think that young people can be a vibrant force of society.
Can an alliance between women on the issue of malnutrition produce real benefits?
Yes, and this is what is happening. In these 55 countries, many of which we call “government focal points” are women, and, for them, facing certain issues is part of the agenda of empowerment. It is great to see the confluence of interests, a common commitment.
What do you hope the WE-Women for Expo project will leave as an intangible heritage with its topics to the next Universal Expositions?
Commitments that are rooted in reality. It is necessary to start from what happens in the countries and support them. This Universal Exposition must say that all countries are on the same level, there is no country that has all the solutions and no country has all the problems, the situation is much more complex and a global commitment from everyone is needed.

Lella Costa: Humor is a sign of dignity, even when it comes to food

Culture / -

Lella Costa
© Samuele Pellecchia

A look from a female perspective at nutrition, food, and our relationship with the planet. WE-Women for Expo’s Ambassador and spokesperson, Lella Costa talks about women, awareness... and soup.

A mistress of wit, Lella Costa likes to quote writer Romain Gary to define this figure of speech that is also a way of life: "Humor is an affirmation of dignity, a declaration of man's superiority to all that befalls him”. Here she explains why humor also has a place when discussing important issues such as nutrition, waste, and world hunger.

In what sense is the female perspective important for getting us to eat heathily?
It’s not just a matter of healthy eating, but about our relationship with food. Motherhood, with the feeding of a newborn child, immediately causes us to have an intimate relationship with the management of the food, and for us women, the fight against waste is fairly innate, as well as natural. I believe that the female perspective in general, and women’s talents in particular, offer an invaluable contribution and one that not only Expo Milano 2015, but also the planet in general, can benefit from right now.
In your book Che bello essere noi (Isn’t it Wonderful Being Us), you discuss femininity and women's ability to work as a team, and be a "we". Often women feel inadequate, not least in their relationship with food. What does this mean for them, and what can they do to become a "we", also in connection to food and nutrition?
These are complex and delicate questions. I would say that, the more we talk about them, downplay them, and demystify them, and make them part of our common heritage, the more we will be able to achieve. For sure we have internalized behavioral patterns related to female stereotypes, including the idea that being thin is an ethical, a moral value. We have done this on a very deep level and have done so unquestioningly, in a way that is completely unblameworthy.
This causes us not to respect our bodies enough, and forces us to adapt to the dictates of the market economy. This seems to me to be very much in line with the themes of Expo Milano 2015: It’s about protecting something precious.
Pope Francis reminded us recently that, "You do not own the land, you are just taking care of it". I think we should apply the same principle to ourselves. We must learn to take better care of ourselves, and learn to pass this awareness on to our children. We must have this proud sense of belonging, of being women.
In your work as an actress and communicator, you have used humor to raise awareness, in both men and women, on the status of women in today’s world. You have shown on stage how women think, and you have exorcised fears and concerns through the use of humor. Would you also employ humor when talking about other issues, such as food waste and world hunger?
I think that humor is a fundamental tool, and can be used to talk about anything. The more important and the more heavyweight a topic is, the more the lightness of touch inherent in humor can provide an alternative to the standard approach. Alternatively, it can prompt us to think of something in a different way. Humor is, at the end of the day, a less weighty, and therefore easier, way to communicate important ideas.

In the book Come una specie di sorriso (Like a Kind of Smile) you include a quotation from writer Romain Gary that links humor to dignity. Could humor be a way of reaffirming the dignity of food?
Absolutely! Romain Gary wrote that: “Humor is an affirmation of dignity, a declaration of man's superiority to all that befalls him.” To choose how to produce, what to produce, how to feed ourselves is an extraordinary affirmation of dignity that affects not only humankind, but also nature, through an original, essential, and fundamental relationship to which, perhaps, we don’t pay enough attention.
You wrote Minestrine for the Slow Food organization’s literary project, which was part of the Piccola biblioteca di cucina letteraria series. What does soup represent for you?
For me, soup is like Proust's madeleine. It is the food that I link most closely with the idea of home. I find it both comforting and easy to make. It’s the first food that we normally eat after breast milk in the form of purée. Soup has a primoridial flavor. In a world in which, as Carlo Petrini, president of Slow Food, says, food porn is increasingly prevalent, simple soup may be a way of getting back to appreciating the value of our common heritage.
In your work, you are often on tour. Is there a food that is etched on your memory and that you often think about?
I must say that I'm an omnivore, and I am really curious so, for me, cooking is a shared relationship. It’s not a question of one type of food, or dish but, that, through food, we tell and reveal much about ourselves. Thus it’s one of the best ways to break down inter-cultural, as well as local barriers, helping us to share both knowledge and pleasure.
Lella Costa is Ambassador and spokesperson for WE-Women for Expo. Read her biography and interview on the website. For Women's Weeks of Expo Milano 2015, Lella Costa will be reading "Il pranzo di Babette" (Babette's Feast) on July 1 at 21:00 in the Auditorium of Cascina Triulza.

Whoever speaks of food, speaks of women. Women, feeding the planet.

Culture / -

chi dice cibo dice donna
© Marc Dozier/Corbis

It is women who nurture and grow the offspring of homo sapiens in all cultures, preparing meals at home every day all over the planet. Women were probably responsible for the birth of agriculture. Without them, humanity today would not have come this far.

Who speaks of food speaks of women. This is because, in spite of the fact that most chefs are men, it is women who have to provide meals every day all over the planet; imagine more than a billion women who every day are cooking for themselves and their families, in every corner of the world and at almost every hour: you get a sense of the importance of the role of family and household among the other half of the human equation.
It is also women who deal mainly in horticulture, farming poultry, collecting herbs and wild fruits, nearly everywhere around the world.
Since the Paleolithic period, mankind has recognized women in an undisputed life-giving role, symbolized also by the so-called Paleolithic Venuses, opulent female statuettes that through their generous shapes represented motherhood and a nurturing role.
Many scholars, including some archaeologists argue that it was women, forever involved in the collection of herbs, flowers and fruits, who came to understand the mechanisms of birth and how to grow plants, and that, as a result of their deep and the maternal insights, agriculture and the domestication of plants came into being.
Women have an almost exclusive role of feeding and weaning babies, from helping children take their breast milk to their first solid foods, and making sure they acquire the food preferences of their own culture. We know that our tastes, our food idiosyncrasies, our preferences are formed early in life, and everything depends on the women of the family in which we were born and raised, primarily mothers.
Even agro-biodiversity is up to women, as it is mainly women all over the world, in their small gardens and family orchards, who preserve local varieties of vegetables, legumes and fruits, precious in maintaining traditional dietary practices and food sovereignty, that is, the ability to feed oneself with self-grown produce.
Finally, women work in the major food chains in the world, in fields and pastures, but also at food processing companies and in the kitchens of dining facilities, cafes, self-service restaurants and at the tables. They are often involved in the sale of products in rural markets. The nurturing role that sets them apart is also reflected in the shape, aroma and flavor given to food, on a daily basis. 2014 was chosen by the United Nations as the International Year of Family Farming; numerous agencies and non-governmental organizations have launched programs to support rural women by giving them this fundamental role of nurturers, without whom humanity would not have come this far.

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