Fostering Social Inclusion and Tackling Food Waste in Slovenia’s Osrednjeslovenska Region

The Osrednjeslovenska region in Slovenia, with 25 municipalities and nine urban settlements, faces diverse challenges despite being densely populated. While some areas have well-developed central functions, others lack essential services, impacting living standards and increasing traffic congestion.

The Rustik Living Lab (LL) in Slovenia targets food loss and waste (FLW) and its connection to social inclusion and entrepreneurship. These issues were chosen for their societal relevance and to leverage partners’ strengths. The LL aims to address data gaps regarding rural poverty, access to food, and subjective quality of life.

Living Lab Challenge

The LL aims to link partners’ expertise in FLW and social inclusion to address the real-time acquisition of excess food and its redistribution to underprivileged rural segments. By assessing the impact on subjective well-being, the LL seeks to explore how social innovation in FLW management can improve the quality of life in vulnerable rural communities.


The chosen challenge reflects societal importance and partner expertise, focusing on dignity and social inclusion. Poverty, social exclusion, and limited access to quality food are more pronounced in rural areas. Urban areas may contribute significantly to FLW, presenting an opportunity for mutually beneficial relationships.

Data on FLW are often outdated, while information on social exclusion in rural areas is limited. Current estimates suggest around 10% of people are at risk of poverty in the region. Examining subjective well-being and social inclusion requires new approaches and social innovation.

Policy Relevance

Policy measures to mitigate poverty and FLW can benefit from concrete data on FLW prevention and subjective well-being improvement. Improved well-being could address other policy issues like rural out-migration and limited access to services. The LL aims to develop replicable good practices for policy implementation.

Research Questions

  • How can excess food be provided to those in need while preserving dignity and promoting social inclusion?
  • What is the relationship between food, access to food, and subjective well-being, and how can it be measured?

Data gaps exist in real-time information on excess food availability and the needs of rural communities. Acquiring sensitive data ethically and ensuring confidentiality pose challenges.

Emerging software solutions offer insights into food waste mitigation. Consultations with institutions working with marginalized groups will explore ways to reach individuals in need while protecting confidentiality and dignity.

The Rustik Living Lab in Slovenia addresses pressing societal issues by tackling FLW and promoting social inclusion. By leveraging data and social innovation, the LL aims to create replicable good practices that inform policy and improve the well-being of rural communities.

Enhancing Rural Development in Serbia’s Zaječar District: Focus on Short Food Supply Chains and Tourism

Map of the Living Lab in Zaječar District

The Zaječar district, in eastern Serbia, encompasses four municipalities with around 97,000 inhabitants. Despite distinct economic dynamics, they share challenges like lower wages, fewer employees, and higher aging rates compared to the national average. The district’s economy relies heavily on agriculture, the processing industry, and services, with significant potential for tourism development.

Economic and Demographic Challenges

The primary challenge is demographic decline, which negatively impacts rural communities, the economy, and natural resources. The Rustik Living Lab (LL) aims to restructure the economy towards high-value activities and labor-intensive services, focusing on tourism and establishing short food supply chains (SFSC).

The LL seeks to integrate the agricultural sector into tourism, benefiting local communities and small businesses. The current challenge is the low representation of local producers in meeting tourist market demands, leading to product sourcing from other regions. By collecting field data, the LL aims to enable evidence-based decision-making, policy development, and improved supply chain coordination.

Strategy Alignment

This initiative aligns with the “Strategy for the Development of the Urban Area of the City of Zaječar and the Municipalities of Knjaževac, Boljevac, and Sokobanja,” aiming to enhance business infrastructure, promote innovation, and establish value chains. RARIS, a key tourism development actor, will benefit from new data, improving decision-making and policy evaluation.

The region’s agriculture is dominated by small family farms focused on cattle, fruit, and grape production. Traditional sectors like meat and dairy are in decline. Focus groups identified supply chain problems, including insufficient trust among partners and lack of stable business relationships.

Policy Relevance

Addressing SFSC in agricultural policy and tourism development is crucial. As Serbia aligns its policies with the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), integrating SFSC ensures compliance and addresses local challenges. Promoting local gastronomic identity through SFSC can boost economic growth and enhance tourism.

Research Questions

  • What is the market potential for local sourcing in the Zaječar district tourism food supply chain?
  • Which products should be prioritized for local sourcing?
  • How can networking within SFSC enhance local agriculture and tourism integration?
  • What changes are needed to make SFSC more sustainable and competitive?

There is a lack of comprehensive data on food supply chain participants, their capacities, and tourist demand for local food. The LL will review municipal databases and conduct surveys to gather necessary data.

The Zaječar district’s focus on developing SFSC and integrating them with tourism presents a significant opportunity for rural development. By addressing existing challenges and leveraging new data, the Rustik Living Lab aims to create a sustainable local food system that enhances economic growth and tourism.

RUSTIK Data Viewer Now Available! Empowering Rural Sustainability Transitions

Rustik Data viewer now available!

We are thrilled to unveil the launch of the RUSTIK Data Viewer, a powerful tool designed to revolutionise evidence-based decision-making and drive positive impacts in rural sustainability transitions.

What is the RUSTIK Data Viewer?

The RUSTIK Information System is more than just a tool; it’s a reliable resource crafted to facilitate comprehensive insights into rural sustainability transitions, encompassing social, economic, environmental, and digital dimensions. At its core, the system serves as a centralized platform, providing seamless access to data meticulously curated within the RUSTIK Database.


Who Benefits from the RUSTIK Data Viewer?

This innovative system isn’t just for researchers and policymakers; it’s for anyone passionate about rural sustainability. From policymakers shaping legislative frameworks to academics conducting groundbreaking research, the RUSTIK Data Viewer caters to a diverse spectrum of stakeholders invested in rural development.

Key Features and Functionalities:

The RUSTIK Data Viewer boasts an intuitive user interface designed with your convenience in mind. Navigate effortlessly through layers of data, gaining valuable insights at every turn. Here’s a glimpse of what awaits you:

  • Layers Menu: Seamlessly transition between the European Core and 14 Living Lab Cores.
  • Area Draw Tool: Customize shapes and areas on the map to suit your analysis.
  • Measure Tool: Accurately measure distances to inform your decision-making process.
  • Information Tool: Dive deep into specific elements or locations on the map, accessing associated attributes with ease.
  • Zoom Functionality: From zooming into specific regions to gaining a holistic view of the entire EU extension, the zoom features empower you to explore with precision.

The Richness of RUSTIK Database:

The backbone of the RUSTIK Data Viewer lies in the extensive RUSTIK Database, meticulously curated to capture economic, social, and environmental indicators. From sectors and employment to quality of life and climate change mitigation, our database is a treasure trove of invaluable insights.

Unveiling Diverse Data Sources:

Our commitment to robust analysis extends to diverse data sources, including:

  • Data from European agencies and programs, such as Eurostat and the European Environmental Agency.
  • Insights from private actors, NGOs, and research institutions, enriching our understanding of consumer behavior and specialized research.
  • Geo-data scraping from platforms like Open Street Map and Google Maps, offering a wealth of geospatial information for in-depth analysis.


The RUSTIK Viewer isn’t just a tool; it’s a catalyst for change. Join us as we embark on a journey to transform rural sustainability transitions. Explore the RUSTIK Data Viewer today and be part of the movement towards a more sustainable future.

At RUSTIK, we believe in the power of data to drive meaningful change. With the RUSTIK Viewer, we empower you to make informed decisions that pave the way for a brighter, more sustainable tomorrow.

Visit our website to access the RUSTIK Data Viewer and unlock a world of possibilities. Together, let’s shape the future of rural sustainability, one data point at a time.