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Isabelle Lacourt

Historically, food has been a pivotal factor in the political construction of Europe, as Common Agriculture Policy has been one of the pillars of the European Union. Therefore, as food and drink industry is the largest EU manufacturing sector in terms of turnover and employment, it is not a utopia to think that sustainable food systems could become major assets of the Europe 2020 strategy of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

The present globalization movement was encouraged because it allowed to prospect an efficient worldwide based food production system. However, such system, handled today by private operators, is causing increasing problems. On one hand because it is based on intensive methods of production that are harming the environment and endangering subsistence farming. On another hand, because the resulting model of diet, despite it apparently solves starvation, is accentuating nutritional imbalances and food related pathologies among the populations. These and other reasons have been invoked to induce cities to come back to local food sourcing (both urban and peri-urban agriculture), in order to match citizens’ basic food needs and also to re-appropriate urban food logistics management.

To handle such complex issues, however, cities must revise their usual competences, and need for that, to build up a vision in which the food issue shifts from its mere definition to a more systemic understanding. Indeed, food is not only a sum of calories and nutrients necessary to make our body working, but it is embedded in a whole system that influences our quality of life and includes all activities and infrastructures necessary to grow, harvest, process, package, transport, market, consume, and dispose food and all food-related items. This life-cycle thinking approach allows to build a model of food lifespan from origin to plate that makes possible to identify all food-related activities and infrastructures in and out the city and to design an organization chart that connects all actors and stakeholders involved in the food supply chain, giving them a role and a responsibility.

It is very important that urban planners and city managers understand that such a model is not self-standing. This is because “food systems” run within and are strongly influenced by cultural, social, economic and environmental contexts, all relationships that allows to make synergies between food planning policy and other mainstream urban policies about more usual issues such as mobility, education, health, etc.

Planning policy and other mainstream urban policies about more usual issues such as mobility, education, health, etc.
Indeed:

  • food consumption is an integral part of all our lives including its history and culture;
  • food is affecting our health and wellness, including nutrition, obesity and food safety;
  • food environmental impacts are becoming an increasing concern;
    food also requires human resources that provide labor, research and education;
  • food is a pillar of the economy, at local and global level.

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