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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
With the rise in awareness of food waste and its environmental implications as well as emerging discourses around a “sharing economy”, there has been renewed interest in food sharing practices. Researchers from the SHARECITY project have developed a typology of food sharing initiatives that shows that it goes beyond merely sharing food and it can take a variety of forms. Their work can inspire cities to develop a food-sharing ecosystem.
Collective buying groups such as CSA have two facets. On the one hand, they belong to the wider social movement advocating ecological transition and are seeking to contribute to wider system changes. On the other hand, they are doing so through a very specific type of activism, that of creating concrete alternatives instead of protesting or lobbying. These two sides of their activity call for a different kind of support. The social enterprise side of the activity should not be overlooked.
The city of Basel (Switzerland) worked with a team of researchers from the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture to develop a “quick scan” of its existing actions without having to spend too much time to gather a lot of (and sometimes missing) data. This tool allows cities to compare their action with best practices from other cities and to identify untapped areas of work, while ensuring that local stakeholders get on board.