Kitchen science  June 2010

Food to Come

The Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition is a think tank for change. Founded in 2009, the center collects and analyzes the world’s best practices with regards to diet and nutrition to offer solutions for future challenges.

Georg Simmel believed that the economy is only capable of turning the world into the world of economy. In other words, entrepreneurs only think about business. This is simply not true. There are cases, worth mentioning, of companies that focus their attention on verbs like “get to know,” rather than “produce” and “sell.” Not only do they want to get to know their own products, but also the role and responsibility in a larger industry. In the end, no one simple produces goods, but produces goods in a certain way.

Barilla, for example, the leading food company in Italy and abroad, is faithful to its corporate values and aware of the key role that diet and nutrition play, and will play, in our lives and the lives of future generations.
For this reason, Barilla decided to invest in a significant undertaking that promises no financial returns. In December 2009, the company founded the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN), a think tank focused on positive change that collects and analyzes global best practices in the fields of diet and nutrition. The goal of the organization is to offer solutions to the difficulties we will face in the future.

“The idea to open the center came from the progressive development of a new vision of the food industry, which could no longer be dealt with like in the past, by separating the industry into its various components,” says Roberto Ciati, manager of external scientific relations and a member of the team that created BCFN.

“We became aware that there was a need for a place where experts from various fields could meet and take a multidisciplinary approach the world’s nutrition problems, pulling together the top competencies, experience and research available.”

The work of the BCFN “is guided by an independent Advisory Board, composed of six established names in the fields of economics, medicine, nutrition, sociology and environmental studies.” (Barbara Buchner, Mario Monti, Gabriele Riccardi, Camillo Ricordi, Joseph Sassoon, and Umberto Veronesi.) “The group is responsible for publishing position papers, downloadable at, and organizing workshops and forums. The goal is to share scientific findings with institutions, the scientific community, the medical community and individuals.”

The research of the BCFN is divided between four areas referred to as food for all, food for sustainable growth, food for health and food for culture. The first is focused on problems related to the increasing global population, the people currently overlooked by consumer markets and the structures that promote the division of wealth between the rich and the poor. The BCFN intends to look for concrete ways to guarentee that everyone has access to food.

The food for sustainable growth project is focused on finding a stable balance between economic growth, environmental protections and social cohesion. The myth of unlimited resources has come and gone. Today, sustainability is not a choice, it is a must.

Food for health is another pressing issue. Globalization and changing lifestyles have lead to unbalanced diets that contribute to the increase of disease. This is true even in Mediterranean countries where the traditional diet is composed of fruit, vegetables, fish and grains. The BCFN recognizes that research, information and communication are fundamental for creating a new “culture of prevention.”

And lastly, food for culture is the title of research focused on the cultural, historical, psychological, religious, ethical and symbolic elements of food. By analyzing these connections it is possible to better understand human beings and to improve the cross-cultural collaboration.

“The BCFN,” says Ciati, “is more than just a scientific reference point. It is an organism able to establish new codes of conduct.” In the words of English philosopher John Langshaw Austin, “speaking is acting.”



Today, in the world, one child in ten between the ages of 6 to 11 is obese or overweight. In Italy, the number of children with weight problems are more than out of three. By comparison in developing countries, around 148 million children under the age of 5 are underweight due to a temporary or long-term lack of food.  And 53% of the 9.7 million deaths of children in this age range are due to malnutrition.

Faced with these facts, the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition organized a workshop entitled Children’s diet, lifestyle and health: the challenges of today for the generations of tomorrow. The workshop was held in Rome at the Residenza di Ripetta on May 4th.  National and international institutions came together with companies, associations, pediatricians and nutritionists to analyze the current situation and compare strategies, intervention plans and experiences.

The most recent position paper published by the BCFN, Crescita sana e nutrizione nei bambini (Healthy growth and child nutrition), was presented at the workshop and can now be downloaded from
The document demonstrates that the body has a good memory and forms dietary habits. A diet given to children directly influences their health, not only during infancy and adolescence, but also in adulthood.

By Mariagrazia Villa

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