What we (don’t) know about the sustainability of short food chains

Short food chains are central in the collective imagination of local food activists and supporting them is the backbone of many local food policies. However, what does scientific literature actually say about their impacts? In a paper published in Sustainability, Yuna Chiffoleau and Tara Dourian, from INRAE (France), show that despite these supply chains playing a major role in the local food discourse, a lot is yet to understand about their actual impacts

What can we do with foodshed analysis?

Since the late 1970s, foodshed analysis has been used to estimate and examine links between rural food production and urban consumption. A recent paper published in Environmental Research Letters reviews existing research and provides recommendations to improve methodologies and better integrate such studies in urban food policies. Why do we need such studies? Are they comparable? What could be done to improve them?

Are food Commons the next innovation pathway for urban food policies?

The concept of “commons” is one of these ideas that is difficult to pin down: what exactly are commons? And what do they have to do with food? In the “Routledge Handbook of Food as a Commons”, engaged scholars and activists from different backgrounds introduce us to this notion and give us a peak into what food policies relying on the premise that food is a commons could look like.

The Food Systems Dashboard

The Food Systems Dashboard, developed by The Johns Hopkins University and Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), is another tool that empowers decision-makers to rely on data and track policy success. Data is pooled from global and regional sources across components of the food system and made available to review, compare and identify priorities https://foodsystemsdashboard.org/

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.

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.

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.