City Region Food Systems, Food System 3.0?

There was a point in time around the end of the noughties where, for the first time in human history the population in urban areas exceeded that of the population in rural areas. It is expected that by 2050 the world’s urban population will increase by another 2.5 billion equating to two thirds of the global population https://ourworldindata.org/urbanization. These changes are occurring at different rates across the globe with, for instance, 80% of the US population already living in urban areas whereas urbanization is growing fastest in Africa and Asia. It is also occurring in smaller cities with half the world’s urban population living in cities of half a million population or less. 

This transformation is profound because it will affect not only where people live but how they will live. The movement of people to cities drives production of goods and services and drives the consumption of these goods. It also drives new tensions such as economic and employment instability, income inequity, human migration, environmental degradation, a myriad of health issues including malnutrition and obesity.

Urbanisation of a population alters that population’s relationship with the food it consumes. As the majority of the world’s population have become urban dwellers therefore the majority of the world’s population have become consumers of food without having direct engagement with its production or producers. This situation has also led to the rural populations focused on serving the interests of changing habits of the urban population. The changing habits and demands, food systems, waste systems, water systems all have knock on effects beyond the city metropolitan area affecting land use, biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions. But urban areas are completely dependent on their surrounding region to provide fresh water, energy, food, natural services and labor. An examination of the linkages between urban and rural areas, and population and surrounding geography is now more essential than ever.

Food systems are the complex web of interactions between producers, processors, logistics, and consumers and are framed within policy environments, cultural norms and to a certain extent, geography. An efficient food system should, at the core, align to the three pillars of food security, Availability, Access, and Utilization. Food must be accessible in the sense that people have purchasing power, food must be available through supply chains of production and distribution and people must be capable of utilizing food in a culturally appropriate way and the food must be sufficiently nutritious for people to lead active and healthy lives (The Role of City Region Food Systems in Resilience and Sustainable Development, 2015). Building upon this food system framework the City Region Food System (CRFS) has been defined as 

“all the actors, processes and relationships that are involved in food production, processing, distribution and consumption in a given city region that includes a more or less concentrated urban center and its surrounding peri-urban and rural hinterland” 

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The City Region Food System approach aims to develop connections and complementary interactions and development between urban and rural regions and specifically between urban areas and rural regions within the urban hinterland. By strengthing supply chains and developing links between consumers and producers the CRFS Approach aspires to increase resilience of food systems against shocks, develop and strengthen existing urban and rural relationships and consider environmental and socio-economic outcomes in urban and rural regions (Blay-Palmer et al., 2018) The CRFS approach, while acknowledging the essential need and pivotal role of the private sector it understands at a basic level that goods and services cannot be provided by the market alone and need public and governmental stakeholder intervention to deliver positive transformation (RUAF, FAO)


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