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

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.

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 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.

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.

Innovating in short food chains logistics

Short food supply chain logistics are a key area for innovation. In a paper published in Sustainability, researchers from the Serbian University of Novi Sad reflect upon new food distribution options that would bring together sustainability and innovations in logistics. Their research will help food producers imagine new ways to distribute their food in the future.

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.