Where do US cities stand on urban agriculture?

Local urban agriculture policies have gained momentum since the turn of the XXIth century. However, it is difficult to get the bigger picture of where we stand after twenty years of policy development. For this reason, researchers from Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future reviewed past and current urban agriculture policies in 40 of the most populated US cities. They show that urban agriculture policies have greatly developed but that there are still many opportunities for them to explore new themes, open up to new stakeholders, and be more accessible to citizens.

Navigating the sinuous path of urban food strategies

Toronto is one of the star cities in urban food policies. What can other cities learn from their elder sister? In an article published in the Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, Alessandra Manganelli compares Toronto’s long path with Brussels’ more recent one. She shows that developing urban food policies is a constant re-adjustment process, where food actors need to re-invent themselves, recast their values, or bring in new narratives as the movement develops. However, this should not only be seen as a burden. It can also be an opportunity for urban food movements to become reflexive and widen the scope of their action.

What would it take to protect farming close to cities?

Peri-urban farmland is under constant pressure from urbanisation. And it is disappearing at worrying rates. What would it take to protect it? And what can we learn from countries that have tried to do so? In a review article published in Land, researchers from the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment look more closely at success and failure factors for farmland protection policies in developed countries.

The two sides of participation in urban food policy

In many countries around the globe, urban food policies were born in an era of increased public participation in local policymaking. However, food raises specific questions when it comes to participation. Indeed, how do you foster participation around a topic that is new to local actors? A topic you, as a municipality, are not yet an expert in? An article published in Politics and Governance analyses participation at the onset of local food policy in the city of Ede, in the Netherlands. Researchers looked at the way local civil servants in charge of developing food policy viewed both their role and that of non-governmental actors. They unveiled a tension between two very different ways to see what participation is about.

What should the next generation of urban food policies look like?

In the 2000’s, food was a stranger to urban policy. Twenty years later, it is now a hot topic. It is a great time, then, to take stock and think about the next generation of urban food policies. A Special Issue of the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development gathers insights from the implementation of local food policies across the United States and Canada. It shows that local governments cannot rest on their laurels, as we still have a long way to go to achieve fair and sustainable food systems.

Food movements: how should they go about change?

Over the last two decades, food movements have gained prominence in the Global North, advocating for a more sustainable and a fairer food system. Are they making a difference? And if so, how? In a book called Civil Society and Social Movements in Food System Governance, scholars give us a peek into social movements’ strategies for food system change. The book will help food movements better position their action to make an impact. It will also be useful for local authorities willing to work with them.

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.