We are currently facing the challenge to improve access to food and healthier diets, in a rapidly urbanising world with changing lifestyles that meet environmental constraints. These challenges are intimately linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and also respond to major transitions that are taking place in our main domains of food and the living environment.
On Friday October 19, 2018, Wageningen University and Research organised the Seminar ‘Towards healthy & sustainable food systems in an urbanising world’. The seminar was established by the WUR Knowledge Base Programmes of Global Food & Nutrition Security’ and ‘Metropolitan Solutions’. Programmes supported by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.
Around 125 persons attended the seminar in Wageningen. Researchers, policy makers, food business and civil society organisations discussed the key challenges for meeting healthy diets and sustainable food supply in a world in transition. We looked back and forward on how to combine evidence and research findings. We assessed new insights on the dynamics of food systems within the specific context of rapidly growing megacities in the developing world.
Background food systems in an urbanising world
Food systems analysis builds on understanding the structure and dynamics of agro-food production systems, the drivers for integrated food value chains and markets, and key incentives for supporting healthier consumer choices. Together, this provides dynamic insights on interfaces between food system activities and processes of adaptive change that are critical to overcome key constraints and bridging trade-offs between sustainable food production and healthy diets.
Potential linkages between agricultural commercialization and intensification influence food security and nutritional outcomes. Integrated value chains contribute to resilient exchange networks and efficient food markets that support circularity and responsiveness. Citizen preferences need to be understood in order to be able to identify suitable incentives to enhance healthier dietary choices.
Opportunities for local food systems
Trends of growing urbanization and gradually rising incomes lead to rapid changes in consumption patterns. Whereas staple crops still represent a major share in traditional diets, peri-urban consumers ask for fresh vegetables and fruits, dairy products, poultry and eggs, fish, and pork and meat. These items are usually more expensive and a long-distance supply chain suffers high food losses.
There are major opportunities for upgrading local food systems while urban food system resilience can benefit from spatially integrated markets and nutrition-sensitive value chains. The integrated value chains contribute to resilient exchange networks and efficient food markets that support circularity and responsiveness. Citizen preferences need to be understood in order to be able to identify suitable incentives to enhance healthier dietary choices.