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In Loco Association (Portugal) “Prato Certo” project

Following our piece on Agroecopolis in Greece, one of our readers told us about a similar initiative in Portugal. Created in 1988, the IN LOCO Association is a non-profit organization that aims to promote the local development of territorial entities, in particular rural ones. It sees development as a process of continuing education and mutually supportive civic participation to meet current needs without compromising the future. This is achieved through initiatives that encourage, train and organize individuals and bodies in an integrated way and through learning by doing.

One of their educational projects is called Prato Certo which means roughly ‘healthy eating’.

Its aim is to raise understanding and awareness of the risk of food insecurity.

In the poorest areas of the country and during an economic crisis that inflicted drastic reductions in purchasing power on families and individuals, the Association decided to provide basic information to allow people to prepare healthy, balanced, delicious and economical food, at a cost of less than a euro per meal.

In order to do this, In Loco had to break down myths and prejudices as well as gaining the trust of the groups they had identified. They did this by providing information that could activate the acquisition of values and principles that characterize the Mediterranean diet. This grassroots communication was directed through food support organizations and distribution firms providing food and/or meals to schools and other public structures through those working in these areas.

The specific aims are to:

– Promote food freedom, based on proximity, among the members of priority groups and their families;

 – Provide tools and develop the competencies of assistants, business and organizations in order to obtain more efficient promotion of an adequate diet for priority groups;

– Contribute to the recovery and spread of a sustainable eating culture based on the Mediterranean lifestyle.

The project has grown steadily to the extent that it now covers a large part of the country. Those groups in the greatest financial difficulty have responded best, leading to the success of Prato Certo. The tools that have been created and made available are easy to understand and specific, like the “recipe book”, the “guide to food education” and above all the specially equipped bus that enables people to be reached where they live. The guiding principle is: communicate dietary information directly to those who may need it without waiting for people to come looking for it.

In this way the project has succeeded in creating a chain of participation that involves everyone from the aware food producer, to short-haul transport, to the educational process with the preparation of good quality, nutritionally balanced meals, to the cooperation between sector workers and those hardest hit by the economic crisis, to the use of all the available tools for innovation.

This is undoubtedly a model to study and copy, especially now that COVID-19 has created swathes of people deprived of work and income right across the EU.