Associated with Juan Carlos I Royal Botanic Gardens, Alcalá de Henares University

Alcalá Science Cafés

The Alcalá de Henares University has hosted a variety of science cafés over the last few months.

On 23rd March 2018, we worked with the Integration and Disability unit of the Alcalá de Henares University, inviting a group of students with special needs to a “Where does my breakfast come from?” science café. In small groups, the students made posters about the breakfasts they brought with them, looking at ingredient sources, packaging, transportation, shopping and food origins.

This allowed for a raised awareness about the quality of food and to offer an activity to a group who often didn’t have the opportunity to take part in activities in the Botanic Gardens. It also acted as a trial run, to see if this could become a regular activity for groups in the future. The participants were excited about the task and were very collaborative, asking questions about the plants and taking photos.

A few weeks after this, on the 12th April, another science café, “Gastronomy as a Commitment with Nourishment”, took place as part of Alcalá’s “Third Symposium of Biodiversity, Landscape and Territory”. The café focussed on the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact and was situated in the Plademunt Restaurant, where the Botanical Garden team collaborated with the owner, Ivan Plademunt.

He spoke about the importance and history of products like tomato. We also invited Gisella Olivares, from Mensa Cívica, who spoke about a sustainable restoration project in Complutense University, and Julia del Valle, from Germinando, who spoke about the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact and the strategy of sustainable food of Madrid. After the speakers, there was time for reflection and discussion and we found a lot of interest in the topics debated.

Participants at UAH science cafe April 2018

Photo credit: José V. de Lucio

Ivan Plademunt was also involved in a science café on the 20th April, where he hosted a tasting of local products as part of a conversation on “Gastronomy and Food Security: Local Food and Urban Agriculture”. Other talks were:

  • "Cultivating community in urban gardens" (Alberto Cruz, Heliconia Soc. Coop. )
  • "Design, planning and organization of the biointensive vegetable garden (Pedro Almoguera, Cantarranas Agroecological Community Garden of Universidad Complutense de Madrid)"
  • "From the claim of urban agriculture in Alcalá to praxis: Experience of the Gardens of the College Island" María Remedios Alarcón Víllora (Scientist from the Regional Institute of Agriculture and rural Development Research and the Platform for Urban and Social Agriculture in Alcalá de Henares)

The movement of urban agriculture is an expression of social interest in the issues of food security and agriculture. The demonstration and discussion served as the guiding thread for a set of local and regional initiatives in this field.

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