The subtle equation of sustainable urban food logistics

Why is it so difficult for farmers operating just outside the city of Chicago to sell to people living there? This was the question that led a team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison (United States) to explore urban food logistics. Their work, published in a report entitled Regional Food Freight: Lessons from the Chicago Region, unveils the historical trends that led to the consolidation of long distance supply chains at the expense of shorter ones, and the limits of the current food freight system. It calls for a more careful integration of food diversity into urban logistics.

Unnoticed, yet happening: food foraging in the city

Who forages and why? A team of researchers across a variety of Baltimore-based organisations carried out an exhaustive survey to identify what, why, and, for the first time, how much people foraged in the city. This study puts this activity on the radar of urban planners and raises questions regarding the health and sustainability risks and benefits of foraging.

Food waste: raising awareness is important, but not decisive

With as high as 30% of global food being wasted, it is crucial to understand why households waste food. A recent literature reviews shows that, good news, no one is happy to waste food. If households know they should not waste food, then telling them not to do so will therefore not really have an impact. The secret rather lies in understanding, and acting upon, the interwoven set of factors that make people waste food even if they know they should not.

Is local food good for the economy? Looking at the full picture

Is buying local is good for the economy? Two recent academic papers present a methodology to calculate the economic contribution of local food systems to a given economy. They urge to go further than existing, short-sighted analysis and properly assess who wins and who loses from local food policies. They also highlight that local food does not fit well with classical economic theory and that local food advocates should therefore not so much try to demonstrate an overall positive economic impact, but positive externalities.

What do we know exactly about urban agriculture’s environmental impacts?

A team of researchers from the Technical University of Denmark and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reviewed existing scientific evidence on the main forms of urban agriculture in northern climates. They found that given the great diversity of urban agriculture, scientific evidence about its environmental benefits remains patchy. It does, however, reveal that the method used to cultivate plants, the product and the location are the three components of the equation cities should take into account to develop environmentally sound urban agriculture policies.

Exploring urban regions’ food self-sufficiency

Is it feasible to source all the food a city needs from its surroundings? The quick answer is no. And two recent academic papers demonstrate it while setting out a methodology that any urban region can use to assess its existing level of food self-sufficiency and the way this would evolve under different policy options.

Business models analysis offers key insights into urban food access initiatives

Researchers from Saint-Etienne and Lyon Universities (in France) have developed a typology of the business models of these organizations that are working for a better access to good food for all. The typology presents four business models, each entailing specific challenges. This analysis is useful for the initiatives themselves, but also for the organizations that support them.

How fast can urban food policies go?

How fast can food policies go given the actors, their interests and representations on a specific territory? The analysis of food policy in a French department (La Sarthe) from the 2000’s onwards reveals two strategies and highlights the importance of territorial coordination as a catalyzer for change.

When urban agriculture meets food justice…

Urban agriculture is fashionable in developed countries and its boasts a rather positive image of community development. But how do these promises hold? In order to answer the question, researchers from Portland State University and the University of Michigan carried out a review of existing evidence in the United States and Canada.