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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Food, energy and water resources are closely interwoven. But what does it concretely mean for a city’s food system? And how does understanding these relationships help plan a more resilient food system? Researchers from New York University have developed a framework that helps cities map, and act upon, the links between food, energy, and water.
Processing facilities are a missing link between local food and new markets, however, they face a double challenge: that of matching local production, high fixed operating costs and demand for local products. When thinking about opening new processing facilities for local food, it is necessary to carry out a full value chain assessment first.
Institutions such as hospitals, schools, universities, corporate cafeterias, or even prisons, are other big players in the food system. How can a shift in their practices help a transition to a more sustainable future? And what can cities do to foster their initiatives? A recent book called Institutions as Conscious Food Consumers presents an overview of action in Northern America.