The main question of this Science Shop research was how the supply of food to the city of Arnhem is currently organised and how the amount of regional food can be enlarged.
Arnhem is a city in the eastern part of the Netherlands with approximately 150.000 residents (the metropolitan area Arnhem Nijmegen includes about 740.000 inhabitants). The research was commissioned by CASA, the local centre for architecture and landscape design. This research is part of a larger project, where CASA puts the urban food system on the agenda, to try to stimulate local parties to buy food more regionally.
The research first tried to quantify whether Arnhem could feed itself from its local area, which it cannot for the product categories wheat and meat (porc, chicken and beef). However, there are quite a lot of product categories for which Netherlands as a country is more than self-sufficient (for porc and chicken it is, for wheat and fruits it isn’t). There are a couple of regional food initiatives in Arnhem, but the mainstream of companies involved in the production, processing or distribution of food is orientated to the world market and not to short food supply chains (although some parties try to service both).
How to enlarge the regional food contribution
The share of regional food can be enlarged by re-enforcing the network of suppliers and buyers. They even can be put on the map quite literally. It is also important to scale up regional initiatives that are already there, e.g., by combining logistical flows of goods and by taking a multi-channel approach (box scheme, retail, catering, restaurants, out of home, all together). It is also important to stimulate public procurement, which is quite well developed in Arnhem in relation to general goals of sustainability. Rather strikingly however in Arnhem it has not been possible to build up a regional food supply chain from local farmers to the local municipal canteens. Suggestions have been made to overcome this stalemate situation.
Urban food security
The attention for urban food supply is a global theme, wonderfully explained in Arnhem by Carolyn Steel, author of the book: ‘Hungry city, how food shapes our lives’. This report places the global debate in a Dutch, or even local Arnhem context. The urgency of urban food security is not the driving force in the Netherlands. Rather the potential of urban food systems to contribute to quality goals is what is important. Interventions in urban food systems, if carefully designed, can have an effect on public health, urban climate, more sustainable urban flows, social goals and regional economic goals. Future efforts should focus on optimising the impact of urban food systems on these urban challenges, rather than limiting oneself to a narrow quantitative (nutritional) view of food and the city.
When it comes to addressing welfare problems in Arnhem, urban agriculture projects – if they are well coordinated to do so – holds great potential to engage different socio economic and/or ethnic groups.