Envisioning the Future of European Food Systems: Approaches and Research Priorities After COVID-19

Vittuari, Matteo; Bazzocchi, Giovanni; Blasioli, Sonia; Cirone, Francesco; Maggio, Albino; Orsini, Francesco; Penca, Jerneja; Petruzzelli, Mara; Specht, Kathrin; Amghar, Samir; Atanasov, Aleksandar-Mihail; Bastia, Teresa; Bertocchi, Inti; Coudard, Antoine; Crepaldi, Andrea; Curtis, Adam; Fox-Kämper, Runrid; Gheorghica, Anca Elena; Lelièvre, Agnès; Muñoz, Pere; Nolde, Erwin; Pascual-Fernández, Josè; Pennisi, Giuseppina; Pölling, Bernd; Reynaud-Desmet, Lèlia; Righini, Isabella; Rouphael, Youssef; Saint-Ges, Vèronique; Samoggia, Antonella; Shaystej, Shima; Silva, Macu Da; Toboso Chavero, Susana; Tonini, Pietro; Trušnovec, Gorazd; Vidmar, Benjamin L.; Villalba, Gara; Menna, Fabio De


The COVID-19 pandemic unveiled the fragility of food sovereignty in cities and confirmed the close connection urban dwellers have with food. Although the pandemic was not responsible for a systemic failure, it suggested how citizens would accept and indeed support a transition toward more localized food production systems. As this attitudinal shift is aligned with the sustainability literature, this work aims to explore the tools and actions needed for a policy framework transformation that recognizes the multiple benefits of food systems, while considering local needs and circumstances. This perspective paper reviews the trends in production and consumption, and systematizes several impacts emerged across European food systems in response to the first wave of pandemic emergency, with the final aim of identifying challenges and future strategies for research and innovation toward the creation of resilient and sustainable city/region food systems. The proposal does not support a return to traditional small-scale economies that might not cope with the growing global population. It instead stands to reconstruct and upscale such connections using a “think globally act locally” mind-set, engaging local communities, and making existing and future citizen-led food system initiatives more sustainable. The work outlines a set of recommended actions for policy-makers: support innovative and localized food production, training and use of information and communication technology for food production and distribution; promote cross-pollination among city/region food systems; empower schools as agents of change in food provision and education about food systems; and support the development of assessment methodologies and the application of policy tools to ensure that the different sustainability dimensions of the food chain are considered.