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.

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.

The A to Z of urban food analysis

urban food system analysis

FAO and RUAF have published a very comprehensive Toolkit called “Assessing and planning sustainable city region food systems”. This is the result of a 3 years journey with 7 cities to develop a methodology to analyse urban city food systems that any city around the world can apply.

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.

Quick-scanning your food policy

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.

So, what exactly are food policy councils?

Food policy councils are developing at a very fast pace across the world. In the United States and Canada, the Food Policy Networks project, from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, carries out an annual survey of Councils to better understand who they are, what they do, and what they need.