GREEN ZAGREB: HUNGER AND ACCESS TO THE FOOD

In this city labs we discussed several topics that are connected with issue of food safety. For the introduction Dean of Faculty of Agriculture, prof. Ivica Kisić held a plenary lecture on issues of hunger in the future. Participants worked interactively whereas first they were introduced to the problems, that worked in 5 subgroups (for an hour) and followed by conclusions in big session.

Virtual Place

12:00 – 12:30: Prof. Ivica Kisić, Dean of Faculty of Agriculture: Hunger and access to food in global world 12:30 – 13:30: sub-group discussions in 4 subgroups Childhood obesity; Quality of food in schools; Urban agriculture; Quality of food for students 13:30-14:00 Conclusions

Date

Start: 09.11.2021
End: 09.11.2021

Partners

In this city labs we discussed several topics that are connected with issue of food safety. For the introduction Dean of Faculty of Agriculture, prof. Ivica Kisić held a plenary lecture on issues of hunger in the future. Participants worked interactively whereas first they were introduced to the problems, that worked in 5 subgroups (for an hour) and followed by conclusions in big session.

12:00 – 12:30: Prof. Ivica Kisić, Dean of Faculty of Agriculture: Hunger and access to food in global world 12:30 – 13:30: sub-group discussions in 4 subgroups Childhood obesity; Quality of food in schools; Urban agriculture; Quality of food for students 13:30-14:00 Conclusions

Total participants: 65 Total students: 43 Total Staff members: 11 Total representatives of societal stakeholder: 8 local professionals and 3 representatives of the City of Zagreb

URBAN AGRICULTURE Poverty is a social concept that can be seen as a global problem and affects a fifth of the world's population. It is primarily seen as a lack of adequate financial resources to achieve and maintain an acceptable standard of living. It can also be seen not only as an economic problem, but a problem that concerns a person’s health, as well as psychological and social well-being. If we look at the problem of meeting a person’s biological needs, it is important to emphasize that the concept of poverty is often associated with hunger, malnutrition and poor health. The rapid growth of the world's population indicates that hunger will be an even bigger and more serious problem in the future. The very problem of hunger is associated with the notions of access and food insecurity that refer to a situation in which individuals do not have access to the resources needed for adequate nutrition. People of lower socio-economic status, the elderly, children, the homeless, ethnic minorities and similar groups in society are particularly at risk of hunger and difficult access to and security of food. Another important factor contributing to a higher risk of poverty is living in rural areas. For the purpose of this project, we have focused on connecting the problem of hunger and access to food in urban areas with a specific group people of lower socio-economic status, with the intent of finding possible solutions to the presented problem.

Under the topic of Hunger and access to food within the project Inclusive Green Zagreb, we have decided to focus on a specific urban area, the area of Pešćenica-Žitnjak. The Peščenica - Žitnjak city district occupies 5.5% of the area of the City of Zagreb and is home to 7.2% of the population (56,487). It is one of the largest city districts. The reason we have chosen this area mainly relates to the fact that the at-risk-of-poverty rate according to the income method is more than 15%, which is very high compared to other Zagreb districts. The target population of our project is low-income persons and families who inhabit the area of Pešćenica-Žitnjak. By contacting a social worker who works in the local Social Work Center, we have gained some insight into the characteristics of our target population and their way of life. When we talk about families of lower socio-economic status, they are most often families with a higher number of members and three or more children, people of Roma ethnicity who live in very poor housing conditions and are characterized by long-term unemployment and lack of education, older single persons who receive minimum pensions and use one-time cash benefits, and single persons who are guaranteed minimum benefits, and are difficult to employ due to mental illness or addiction, as well as the homeless who need to be integrated into the local community. Specifically, residents of the city of Zagreb are entitled to certain forms of assistance to meet their needs for food. Assistance in family packages is provided by distributing these packages to some families, which, among other things, contain groceries. Also, there is the right to eat in the Public Kitchens, which is organized by daily preparation and distribution of lunch, and this right is exercised by users of the guaranteed minimum social assistance, in specially prescribed cases. In terms of the need for food, the largest number of users eats in the Public Kitchens. The Center for Social Work has currently issued 460 passes for the public kitchen, which secures only one meal a day. If we look at the rate of material deprivation for the country of Croatia, which stands at 7, 9% for people living in households who cannot afford a meal containing meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every other day, and apply this to the area of Peščenica-Žitnjak, we get a number of over 4000 people that do not have access to proper nutrition. In comparison to the number of people who have the benefit of using the public kitchens or receive family packages that include groceries, we are looking at a much larger problem.

Considering that we have decided to focus on the general low-income population, our solution goes towards creating a more sustainable way of providing a healthy nutrition. Accelerated growth of the urban population, decreasing amount of arable land, reduced soil quality and increasing social inequalities in food systems have imposed urban agriculture as one of the most important proposals for solving the problem. Specifically, our chosen area of Peščenica-Žitnjak has 32% of green surfaces that are undeveloped, and have no specific use, which would make it easier to find an area suitable for creating an urban city garden. This city garden would be dedicated to people of low income, so they could grow their own food, thus securing a stable food source during a certain part of the year. Another option includes securing access to an already developed city garden to our target group, where they could work alongside people that already use said garden. Apart from creating a new source of nutrition, this would promote social inclusion, help integrate them into the community and create an opportunity to form new social connections. A third option is contacting residents of Peščenica-Žitnjak area that are currently working on the city garden and asking for excess food they might have cultivated, and finding a way to distribute that food to people in need.

THE PROBLEM OF CHILDHOOD OBESITY The problem of childhood obesity is recognized at the state level. Thus, the Croatian Institute of Public Health emphasizes alarming data related to childhood obesity. The problem isn’t recognized by parents, schools, while children themselves recognize it (peer violence/ bullying). The problem of obesity in children is visible in their adult life and it has immediate consequences. For example, health issues and lack of concentration are caused by poor nutrition. Research also states that obese children are more likely to remain obese (in their adult life), which is associated with a variety of cardiovascular diseases. Childhood obesity manifests itself through a variety of health problems ( e.g. type 2 diabetes). The problem affects people both directly and indirectly. It directly affects the children themselves, and indirectly the health system (more patients) and their future children (higher risk of obesity). The Republic of Croatia is among the top 5 EU countries in terms of obesity. 35% of children aged 8 to 9 are overweight or obese. Territory that is affected by the problem: the whole country and therefore also our local community (more frequently in cities than in villages). In Trešnjevka – sjever the problem manifests throughout: non-compliance with national guidelines at school level, lack of knowledge and skills among parents ( e.g. "healthy eating takes more time"), lack of physical activity, more bakeries than health food stores (addiction to sugar and flavor enhancers), lack of green spaces for recreation, lack of education in schools on the importance of healthy eating, lack of financial resources to ensure adequate meals, spending too much time playing video games, watching TV with consuming unhealthy food (snacks, sweets), media influence - promotion of unhealthy food, delivery of the same (Glovo, Wolt) There are many possible solutions. One of them is to educate children in schools about importance of healthy diet. Also, many schools in the area of Trešnjevka-sjever have a yard where we would be able to plant some fruits or vegetables. This would allow children to have access to fresh and healthy ingredients. As another solution, we think that it is important to get in touch with someone who is famous on social media and is followed by children. He could post content that promotes a healthy lifestyle.

TOPIC: QUALITY OF SCHOOL NUTRITION Within the area of hunger and nutrition, we decided to analyse the quality of the school meal. Namely, for some, such a meal is a rarity because they come from poor families, but they also suffer stigmatization from other children at school. Also, many scientists point out that quality nutrition is most important in the period of a child's development, which affects its timely and healthy development. Such scientists come from the field of developmental psychology, which explains how nutrition affects a child's concentration and brain structure, and in addition to the above, there are health experts who warn of obesity in society, as well as the development of many diseases (such as diabetes). Nutrition is also important for the establishment of a better quality of life that would be nurtured by parents, i.e. family homes where a healthy attitude towards the consumed food is applied. It was the accelerated pace of life and the popularization of fast food that influenced the question of its nutritional value in modern times. This would make it necessary to make parents and school staff aware of the importance of consuming quality food in the area of the primary school population. The nutritional value of a meal is a narrower problem area because although almost all schools offer the possibility of a school meal, its nutritional composition needs to be considered more. Namely, it has been established that it is important how something is prepared and how much caloric value it carries. In this way, we analyzed, for example, the dessert offer at school, which, although tempting to children (chocolate biscuit or pudding), can be of greater nutritional value. Thus mentioned biscuits can be prepared from almonds and other nuts, as well as using wholemeal flour, not typical white, while sugar can be replaced with honey. Such nutritional value would be sufficient for the mentioned dessert used during snacks, would maintain the child's concentration for learning in class, and a high caloric content would consist of unsaturated fatty acids that are healthier, as well as fructose which is again better quality, viewed through a prism health - prevention of diabetes and obesity. The problem is especially relevant today and we find its significance in that. The desire is to act on people who are educators of children because, having analysed the problems, we concluded that poor eating habits are the result of negligence of parents and school staff who do not have a developed awareness of the need for quality nutritional value and therefore do not advocate it. Equally - the financial capacity of the school can be an additional problem. Contact the school and ask them to give us a place on their website where we would present an article aimed at raising the level of awareness of parents and school staff, but also the general public (therefore the website was chosen). Within the article, we would present relevant facts from the mentioned areas of health and developmental psychology, which would refer to the findings of experts and prevent the development of risk conditions or diseases in children, and possibly establish a new stream of consciousness that will foster a healthy approach to nutrition.

QUALITY OF FOOD FOR STUDENTS IN ZAGREB Around 4,000 students are accommodated in the Stjepan Radić dormitory. They eat mostly in student canteens located on the dormitory grounds. The availability of unhealthy food, which is subsidized by the state, sometimes does not meet the nutritional needs of young people. Experts believe that the method of food preparation is more problematic than the nutritional value of food. One way to work on this is to educate chefs and assistant chefs on newer ways of preparing food. Furthermore, the norms of the Student Center for Student Canteens are not as deficient as they may seem. Students are provided with a wide range of healthy foods, but it is prepared in limited combinations in a way that reduces their nutritional value. This opens the possibility of redesigning dishes to be as healthy as possible, but also tastier. Students want to eat healthier, but if they are offered a choice between tastier and healthier, of course they will choose tastier. Therefore, meals should be prepared in a way that students wouldn’t have to choose but will know that healthier meals will be just as tasty as less healthy ones. Preparing food by themselves is a more expensive option for which most students neither have the time nor the adequate infrastructure to do so. Also, people with allergies and intolerances are most often unsure of possible allergens in their food. According to the Consumer Information Act, the Student Center is obligated to show all possible allergens present in food, however this is often not done, and in cases where it happens the data is deficient and often inaccurate in practice. This could endanger the life of a student who may not be aware that they are eating something that could harm them. People with dietary preferences do not fare any better. Namely, vegan dishes are not available in canteens, while vegetarian dishes are prepared in a way that reduces their nutritional benefits. Also, sometimes a dish is mistakenly presented as a vegetarian dish when it contains meat products. Experts believe that changes would be easiest to introduce if government co-financing of processed foods is reduced. This would introduce healthier menus, and they would be more cost-effective for students because the price of plant products is lower. Also, experts believe that change requires the education of students themselves. Thus, through the guide on nutrition, students could be educated in more detail about what kind of food they eat in student canteens and how they could choose a healthier and better option. The narrower problem we detected is the food quality. The problem of inadequate and nutritionally poor food leads to a decline in immunity and disease, digestive difficulties, fatigue and physical exhaustion, and difficulties with body weight. As one of the possible sources of this problem we see insufficient education and awareness of students and those responsible for nutrition who often think that healthy food is more expensive and have not realized that a balanced diet is extremely important for physical health. One of the possible actions can be raising awareness of the people involved, ie. students, Student Center managers, and kitchen staff.

Tags

UNIC CityLabs | green city

Themes

food safety | urban agriculture

Type of case

Panel discussion | Workshop

Languages

Croatian

Organizing unic universities

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