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.

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 emergence of values-based food chains

Values-based food chains are a collective strategy that enable producers to realise the benefits of good stewardship otherwise not independently possible when competing in industrial food markets. A special issue in The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food explores their development in Europe and North America.