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.
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.
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.
What motivates alternative food movement practitioners and leaders? How do they manage limited capacity for action? Are groups collaborating with each other to build collective strength?
What can city networks achieve? The experience of climate change networks provides useful insights for food ones.
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 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.
Collective buying groups such as CSA have two facets. On the one hand, they belong to the wider social movement advocating ecological transition and are seeking to contribute to wider system changes. On the other hand, they are doing so through a very specific type of activism, that of creating concrete alternatives instead of protesting or lobbying. These two sides of their activity call for a different kind of support. The social enterprise side of the activity should not be overlooked.
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.
Some cities around the world have pioneered local food action. Two pieces of work published this year present insights from these pioneers. Here is an overview of key advice for any city willing to embark on a food policy.