UN predicts that by 2050, up to 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. Some precursors to this urbanization trend can already be seen in Europe, where studies suggest that 80% of all Europeans live in cities. Therefore it is logical that our centres of food production be located as close as possible to consumption. It seems intuitively more sustainable than the current logistical structure of the food system, where so much of our food is coming from a globalized trade system and spends so much time travelling from farm to table. As more and more people start residing in cities, and as cities become megacities, redesigning the urban food system will be a crucial aspect in food sustainability.

The current food system is far from being sustainable. The globalized nature of the food system has resulted in an increased emphasis on chemically intensive processes that ensure longer durability of agricultural produce as it travels long distances from the farm to our tables. While on the one hand, technological innovation has increased global food production and brought down global hunger levels, on the other, it has led to an increasing number of chemicals finding their way into our diets. Moreover, the abundance of food in developed countries has resulted in a highly unsustainable supply chain practice where one-third of the food is discarded. And it is a well-known fact that this highly industrialized agriculture and food sector contributes one-third of the global carbon-dioxide emissions.

In the wake of this unsustainable nature of our current food system, ideas like urban farming, efficient supply chain management and circular economy have begun resonating with local city governments and citizens alike. There is a growing preference of locally sourced food in many European cities. As shining examples of citizen-driven movements, Food Policy Councils (FPCs) are coming up in many cities. The FPCs are ideating and implementing new ways to kickstart an ecosystem around better urban food systems.

Urban Food Systems is a documentation of these transitions towards the urban food systems of the future. It is a voluntary initiative supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and ECF Farmsystems.

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