With a projected 2 billion people living in slum by 2030, what can city or national governments in the North do to help alleviate global urban food poverty? The key for city cooperation lies in giving time to people to help them find their own ways instead of imposing solutions upon them.
Who can precisely define local food? Food miles is only part of the picture. Moving away from dualistic thinking about local and global, Swiss researchers have identified the different criteria that can be assessed in order to capture the localness of a product.
Is the city level the right level to act upon the food system? A methodology from the University of Minnesota compares the impact of local actions and that of actions taken at another scale.
Urban does not always mean pollution, and pollution does not always mean health hazards. However, risk analysis needs to be more systematically integrated into urban food policies. This is why a recently published methodological guide takes stock of 10 years of research on the topic and highlights a few key points that any urban policy maker should keep in mind when developing an urban agriculture or a gardening policy.
With urban agriculture becoming fashionable in developed countries, a small number of iconic examples, from New York to Berlin, are now widely shared at the international level. A paper published in Landscape and Urban Planning earlier this year by Autria-, UK- and Columbia-based scholars invites us to reflect upon the limits of such “ready-to-use” references when they are mobilised by policies or projects irrespective of the local contexts.
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.
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.
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 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.
Food justice is concerned with equity in all steps of the food system (from production to consumption). It is not easy for cities or regional governments to tackle food justice issues, as the margin of manoeuvre at the local level is limited. But they can still make a valuable contribution. Here is how.