After covid19: while food businesses are failing, can community oriented food projects be the way forward?

Infrastructure and key costs is really where it breaks. I am apalled at how little resilience small food businesses have, and how quick they are failing when they can’t cover their fixed costs in a crisis. What are the lessons food entrepreneurs can learn? everyone is taught to have a business and financial plan, but those numbers cannot prepare you for steady financial reserves in times of plummeting sales. So how should you then run your food project in a financially sustainable way - what are the no nos? In a country like Belgium where support is offered in regional subsidies, can they be used in a smart way?

There are examples of shared infrastructure but they are also commercially aligned - like professional kitchens. Some of them are more community oriented than others, but there are of course other sets of problems which they can pose. However, for smaller food projects and for some time I think they can work:

Source:à-bruxelles-est-ce-que-les-dark-kitchens-sont-une-solution. So yes, technology does play a role in that online apps and delivery services are on the rise.

The paradox of the paradoxes: even in short food chains and increased demands, some people are struggling because of the disruption and increased costs:

Today, during this strange period, his sales have risen by two hundred percent. Nice is not it? However, I still see farmer Matthias with his hands in her hair every week during the corona ‘high days’. A doubling of the sales figures is not as simple with farmers as ‘one plus one is two’. There is much more to it. Let us burp with Matthias. He literally does everything from A to Z. From administration, packaging, HR, sales, logistics, harvesting to sowing. He uses the structure of a large company, but compressed in a craft profession. If you are so small and have to take so much hay on your fork, you cannot just switch twice as fast. What does the two hundred percent turnover mean if you can barely cover your costs?
The ‘short chain’ model can therefore play a crucial role in the transition to a different food system. Only these pioneer farmers need support in their growth. Governments, research institutions, citizens, companies, … All can think along with Matthias and thus help him to provide us with tasty, healthy, local food in a sustainable way for him, our society, our nature and our money. Not only during this crisis, but also in the post-corona period. Start by looking up your local seasonal farmer (s), maybe help us out. Appreciate their professional pride and passion. After all, they practice one of the oldest professions in the world, co-create our nature and our landscape, stimulate tourism and the catering industry through the typical regional products and determine the identity of a region.

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We have a date for our event - 3 June 17:30! We will announce it also on other platforms, can anyone help me with that? (platforms where we would reach other food projects)

Ping @mex: does this work for you? Is there 1 specific question which you would like to address in the session, given where CoopCycle is positioned and where it wants to go in the near future?

Also could be of interest to @gregoiremarty who did a short video documentary in Morocco reflecting on food cycles; @pavlos a super connector in Greece and @jenny_gkiougki who is a food activist, @mstn working on a food application for home delivery in Italy.

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You can try with this, The agricultural European Innovation Partnership (EIP-AGRI), Events on innovation in agriculture and forestry | EIP-AGRI.

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also @eimhin might be interested in this.

On the cost efficiency of food projects (mostly restaurateur) there is this article that sums it up well:

The problem with the shared kitchen spaces are the many restrictions and complicated logistical problems they create.
Dry and wet food / meat and no meat / dairy / nut allergies / … all those things are difficult to set up in the same space due to the food regulations. There is some logical truth in it, but there is also a frightening urge to control everything that is simply absurd

Yes on food industry level it can be dangerous to not controle, because a badge of production maybe feeds 10.000 house holds at a time. But if we want to support a world where 1000 of little food entrepreneurs all have their own little market of a couple of hundred people for wich they produce food. we need to rethink the legislation.

Shared infrastructure can only become a thing if we rethink how we controle food.
There is a type of label in Canada that makes it possible to start home-made production, and legally viable. This “home-made” label counts for people making max X number of a product, and they need to put it that it follows only the common sense of production.

I like this label because it makes it possible to test out a market, see if your product is viable and you can create a crowd without having to invest in a solid kitchen, …

I’m pushing my space to become a safe spot for this kind of behaviour in the future. I know i could get in problem from AFSCAA, but i don’t care anymore. I want to give the possibility to starting food entrepreneurs in fermentation to produce their first couple of batches, once they want to become pro, they can move to better equiped facilities.


Very cool event!
At the moment, I am supporting F2FMarket ( to write some proposals around food supply chain with other partners. NGI Atlantic and an special EU call to solve covid-19 challenges.

Happy to meet others!


hi noemi,

hope you re good!

can you please change my email address to ?

i dont use this one so much anymore, and it would be easier for me to have all work related things in one place!

Thanks :slight_smile:


Hi @lylycarrillo, it would be great if you could explain us, the site is pretty cryptic :slight_smile: Anything in particular that you like about the initiative, the problem it’s trying to solve?
Would love to have you in the session, are you still based in Ghent?

Hi Jenny,
We’ve sent an email to the new address. Please follow the confirmation instructions :slight_smile:
How have you been, what are you working on nowadays?

maybe we can start a legal defence fund for you :slight_smile:

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Welcome on board @angelo @Puja & @bistra,
Go ahead and tell us what you see happening around you? what scares you?
Do you know any great projects that we can learn from ?


Hi all
Localization is good, at the condition of having/increasing connections. I see this happening, even if it is also depending on the conditions of the lockdown. The crisis pushed farmers to organize themselves for online orders and delivery and this is good news, especially in remote rural areas. I think the food issues you are focusing on are worth to be discussed not only in an urban perspective but also in an internal and “marginal” areas perspective.

We see this with @winnieponcelet in our shared space - we cannot even insulate our own production from other (possiblty hazardous or non-compliant) productions.

I think shared spaces are great for testing and product development, they don’t work for selling your products, because there is too much interdependency.

It’s quite unfortunate, that at some point you do have to go on your own - or invest just as much in a shared AND compliant space! Then the whole niceness of sharing is added overhead :frowning:

@angelo do you have an example in mind?
See the story of the farmer in the article above…? He seems to be struggling quite a lot, with lack of capacity for running a bigger project!

Yes, I agree completely that rural is very much part of this discussion because that’s, for many of us, the origin of the chain.

I have three stories collected in Italy, 2 of them are in very marginal areas. In one of the 2 cases, the disruption in tourism caused by Covid could jeopardize the result of being ‘smart’. The article says nothing new: that’s why farmers deserve public support and in some areas you need to mix agriculture and food production with other economic activities, such as tourism, to survive. This is why things like “oh what a picturesque little farm in the middle of nowhere, what a beautiful place to live, let’s put a short-chain here” are to be put in a… reality perspective. In most European regions farming is a hard job, harder than other sectors for an income that is lower than in other sectors. The awareness of farmers on the need of organizing themselves empowers them in every sense and my hope is that this will stay.


Thanks for the input, in the same type of idea @noemi it could be interesting to contact l’arbre qui pousse who is looking into rural food chains, but I did not yet have the time to check concretely what they are doing

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Hi Noemi, yes, I am still based in Ghent, and probably for a long time as my husband’s family is Flemish, and I am liking Ghent :slight_smile:

I will join you on this event, and shared with you a bit more details as @nadia has suggested me to talk to you:

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Perfect @lylycarrillo thanks for registering, got it!
We will send all participants the link to the online session early next week,

Meanwhile, if you have any other recommendations for who we should invite to join us, please let us know and we will contact them,

Some data from various sources, to give an idea about what’s happened in the food retail during the lockdown in Italy (where the lockdown was particularly strict) and why food communities got a boost from the epidemics, both in the rural and urban milieu. The communitarian response is there and localisation (even at risk of becoming localism) also, and there is potential for further development. In my view, the big question for every food manager is: how much prices will be important in purchase behaviours during the economic crisis?

The Italian food retail in general marked increases of around 10% up to the first half of April 2020, with peaks of 30% for packaged goods. But small retail outlets, discount stores and supermarkets made double-digit progress. So-called hypermarkets, which already were in a structural crisis, suffered further marginalization. Italians made greater use of neighborhood shops and small markets compared to pre-Covid. The reduction in the frequency of spending corresponded to a preference towards points of sale close to home, especially those that have introduced services such as click & collect, telephone orders, via WhatsApp or via the website (16% of families benefited from food delivery). Take into account that before the pandemics Italian consumers were not enthusiastic online food buyers. According to a recent survey, 60% said that the origin of food - already relevant in the past - will be even more important after the Covid. This is tricky because it might have ‘gastro-nationalistic’ outcomes (see the proposed law in Czech Republic to push supermarkets to sell 55% of ‘national’ food). 45% said that short supply chains will be more important. It has to be seen how these new trends will match with the attention to convenience and price, given a difficult economic outlook, which will likely determine a sharp reduction in income and spending capacity.

Hope this helps.