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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We do not really think about how our food gets to our urban plates. Nor do we have a clear picture of what would happen if the supply chain was disrupted. Here is an overview of key steps any city can follow to assess its own food system resilience based on Baltimore's experience.
When cities try to relocalise food production, they should keep in mind that it is not only the number of hectares of land that is relocalised that counts. They also need to take into account the quality of that land. More widely, they need to familiarize themselves more with the farming sector in order to provide suitable conditions for farms to come back close to the cities.