Transforming Development With Food?

This post was originally posted in Linked-in on September 30,2019

Whenever possible, I try to attend conferences that I am personally interested in, other than the economic issues. And yet, if the conference holders adopt a multidisciplinary approach, issues are almost always related to economic development as well.

Last week, I attended an international food conference, YEDI in Istanbul, bringing together chefs, producers, opinion leaders, researchers and journalists around discussions on ‘food and beyond’.

First of all, explanation on YEDI (meaning both seven and ate in Turkish) in the words of conference holders: Seven hills of Istanbul, seven regions of Turkey. In addition to several speeches, conference matched nine local chefs with nine LIFE members (trainees for food entrepreneurship program to help refugees and Turkish citizens develop new skills), nine traditional dishes, and nine innovative versions.

Even though I enjoyed the food cooked in a cross-cultural engagement very much, I was professionally interested in the ‘beyond’ part of the conference. This is what I heard and mostly interpreted from the conference on issues related to economic development:

Transformation:Main theme of the conference.

It is the not the concept of change that is currently challenging us; but the speed of change. What we need to develop is velocity resistance.

Instead of subject-based approach (that the West has developed since Industrial Revolution), we need to get better at functional approach, systems thinking and relating the issues to one-another.

In other words, we need less subject-experts and more ‘dot-connectors’.

Climate Change:

How we grow, cook and distribute food is an area that is going to very critical in this transformation; but we have to learn to connect the dots more quickly for survival.

Climate is changing and it is affecting the production of food. The volatility of temperature is affecting the food production because monoculture food production is not resistant enough to adversity in climate. What we have accepted as ‘green revolution’ or monoculture agro production, is increasingly making us and our food vulnerable and less resistant to shocks.

Vulnerabilities – Gender and Region Specific

Current problems in the global economy (including climate change) are creating gender-specific and region-specific conflicts; and food instability is a symptom of these conflicts.

Migration is a result of lack of resources, created by these conflicts. Unfortunately, food is used as the cheapest weapon of war.

Women and children are affected the most out of these conflicts, especially due to migration. Social gastronomy, using food to create good, is a reaction to these vulnerabilities.

Locally sourced restaurants are also part of the same transformative thinking, putting both social and ecological vulnerabilities into the spot-light.

Sustainable Development Goals:

Two SDG goals were mentioned in the conference:

SDG 2: Zero Hunger (how can we target zero hunger target, given the change in climate?)

SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions (can we use food to overcome conflicts and create more resilient societies?)

Solutions Proposed:

Being proactive

Integrated strategies and plans: Specifically multi-scale, multi-sector, multi-stakeholder and gender-specific

Diversification on-farm production and off-farm consumption.

Promoting small-farmers because small farms can be and should be viable

Growing bio-dynamic seeds

Using social gastronomy to include more women and immigrants into the economy and to overcome conflicts

Organic farming according to lunar calendar


Once, the most populated city in the world and still one of most populated ones, Istanbul is an example of how migration changes the socially accepted terms on food. It is a city of immigrants and emigrants and food adopts to these flows. Food culture in Istanbul is built on food culture of Rum, Armenian, Sefarad, Caucasian, Crimean, Balkan, Russian kitchens and recently Syrian migrants. Two dish to trace the hints of changing cultural texture: Midye dolma and topik

Quotes that I Liked:

Are humans ruling the world or the grains? (Mehmet Tekinel)

People are not at the top of the food chain; but just a part of it (May Rosenthal Sloan, Catherine Flood)

Success is a limiting thing, creatively (Rene Redzepi)

Ethnic restaurants are the living rooms of homesick immigrants (Johanna Mendelson Forman)

Current healthcare system is good at trauma healthcare; but not good at curing chronic diseases (Seamus Mullen)

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