At Umbra we very much value learning through experience and community. For this reason, Umbra offers students a wide range of volunteering and community engagement opportunities that not only enhance the quality of their abroad time, but also contribute to the community they’re actively living in. Among the many, Solidarity Purchasing volunteering is one of the activities offered at Umbra thanks to Fuori di Zucca, a local Solidarity Purchasing Group we’re extremely happy to collaborate with.
Fuori di Zucca is a Solidarity Purchasing Group born in 2015 in Perugia: “We were only 5 people at the beginning. We are now 100 associates and 12 local producers”, says Domenico Lizzi, founder and current President of the Association. You might be wondering, at this point, what a Solidarity Purchasing Group is. We didn’t have it clear at the beginning either, but Domenico helped us understanding. “A Solidarity Purchase Group is aimed at purchasing goods (in this case, agri-food goods) from local and small producers who are respectful of the environment and the people involved in the production chain, and then at selling them at the group’s associates”. Of course, the involved producers are not chosen randomly: “Back in 2016, we started defining the ethical and environmental standards we wanted our producers to respect. Every time we get in touch with a new or potentially new producer, we visit their production site and establish a deep trustful relationship to make sure these standards are respected”, explains Domenico. Even without complex and expensive quality labels, it is reciprocated trust and well-oiled internal control that guarantees both ethical and agricultural quality.
“The most important message we want to convey to people is that if we, as a community, get organized, we can all eat high quality products at a price that is affordable for everyone, and fair for the producers”. In fact, Fuori di Zucca’s associates (and, hence, “clients”) are all kinds of people: students, middle class families, single workers, the elderly, and also disadvantaged people. In this regard, the association also provides groceries to five families in need. “It is undoubtful that the ethical basis of our Association is a core part of what we do. At the same time, this project couldn’t be economically sustainable and competitive with the great distribution chains if we couldn’t rely on the actual quality of the products we sell”. Quality and fresh food products ore, in the end, the reason why Fuori di Zucca is so successful and widely participated.
Last year, Umbra Students had the chance to learn how such a project works and to be part of it. “It was a pleasure to have them here, as well as a great help for us”. Students managed to overcome linguistic barriers and to discover the actual purpose of the initiative, also choosing to buy their groceries at the weekly Fuori Di Zucca distribution market. “A positive and healthy approach to food is, luckily, widely spreading at the moment, of course also in the US. At the same time, many of the Umbra students had never actually experienced a similar project. I really hope this experience gave them something to bring back home.” This semester’s volunteering session is about to start, and any feedback or suggestions from Umbra’s students on what Fuori di Zucca is doing will be more than encouraged and welcome. See you all there soon!
Debora Del Cogliano for The Umbra Institute
Domenico Lizzi for Fuori di Zucca