Urban food, energy and water: connecting the dots

If the food system needs water and energy, then food policy should pay attention to these resources. Research into the interconnections, and possible trade-offs, between the three basic resources for human activities has boomed over the last few years. Time to take stock and look at what lessons cities can draw out of them. A recent article published in Resources, Conservation and Recycling by a Beijing (China) and Michigan (USA)-based team, reviews existing literature on the topic.

Do national food policy networks make a difference?

As local food policy groups (also known as food policy councils, food councils, and food partnerships) have developed, so have national, regional, and international networks that connect them. What can we expect from such networks? A recent article analyses two well-established national food policy networks in the United States and the United Kingdom. Its conclusions will help any network to evaluate its role in advancing food systems change.

The unintended consequences of successful urban food policies

In our current food system, plagued by both food poverty and food waste, food poverty alleviation can take the form of surplus food redistribution. But what if, tomorrow, we manage to curb food surplus and waste? How should food aid organisations anticipate such a situation? Recent research highlights the importance of adopting a food system approach to urban food policies.

Seeing food futures through different lenses

Participation is key to urban food policies. However, cities often fail to mobilise a variety of stakeholders beyond the “usual” urban food activists. In a paper published in 2018, Paul Thompson, from Michigan State University (United States), reminds us that food actors held very different viewpoints about what the future of the food system should be. Better understanding the imaginaries that drive food actors is therefore a useful first step to starting a dialogue with them.

How can food fit into urban planning?

For a long time, urban and regional planning was not much concerned with food. Since the 2000’s, however, food has become a topic planners discuss about. In a book called Integrating Food into Urban Planning, published in 2018, Yves Cabannes and Cecilia Marochinno gathered insights from various cities around the world about what planning can do to contribute to sustainable urban food systems.

Beyond supermarkets: food distribution in local food systems

Cities know little about wholesalers and retailers, and too often assimilate distribution with supermarkets. In an article published in the French-speaking Revue de l’Organisation Responsable, two researchers from VetAgro Sup Clermont and AgroParis Tech Clermont Ferrand (France) discuss how independent retailers and wholesalers should be integrated in local food strategies.

Is self-sufficiency the ideal goal for urban food policy?

Many scientific studies have looked into cities’ food self-sufficiency potential. An article published in the Journal of Cleaner Production reviews this literature and shows that, on the one hand, that it is very difficult to compare such studies, and, on the other, that cities should focus on circular and sustainable practices rather than sufficiency.

Why do we keep losing agricultural land to the city?

Urbanisation raises very salient questions for food security and agriculture next to the cities. What are the main factors explaining urban sprawl, and what can we do about it? In a paper published in Land Use Policy, researchers from France-based think-tank IDDRI and research centre CIRED review all the factors discussed in scientific literature.

The emergence of values-based food chains

Values-based food chains are a collective strategy that enable producers to realise the benefits of good stewardship otherwise not independently possible when competing in industrial food markets. A special issue in The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food explores their development in Europe and North America.

Untangling the web of food environment studies

Food environment

Is there a link between food accessibility and people’s health? Publications about food environment have blossomed in the last 10 years. In a chapter from the second edition of Neighbourhoods and Health, researchers from Harvard Medical School review this scientific literature. Their work reflects the difficulty to capture such a phenomenon and highlight that access to healthy food is necessary but not sufficient to improve people’s diets.