What is the most pressing current issue/challenge related to sustainable food systems (in the context of rural-urban linkages)?

The key issue in developing sustainable food systems will be to form efficient short food supply chains that will be able to compete with large food chains in terms of quality, delivery and in certain way also in prices. The quality and safety of food is getting high on the agenda of EU citizens and this offers an opportunity for the shorter food chains which may be able to deliver quality food next door within the expectation of quality and price. This will segment the food supply in type (local vs. foreign/exotic food) but also in availability per season which will affect the dietary habits and accessibility.

Additional opportunity may also be seen in climate changes. They cause huge destruction in people’s lives but also in food production chains and shorter food chains may respond to with ability to deliver in changed circumstances and be able to deliver safe food.

Shorter food supply chains will need to find new production techniques and sometimes change production and processing, but on the other hand they will need to find their way around logistics, selling points and engage in modernisation of our lives in terms of diet and life style.

What is a misconception about rural vs urban areas regarding this topic?

Key misconception is that rural and urban areas are separate worlds or galaxies while we all know in reality, there is no sharp distinction. This causes different policy approach, different legal setting and different planning models which basically divides what in nature is one. Urban areas with more interaction with rural are better to live and in vice versa rural areas with more interaction with urban are more liveable. And this is not only in terms of food chains, tourism, recreation but in everyday living needs for social networking, cultural engagement and so on.

The other very strange misconception is that urban areas produce more value. When counting purely economic or statistical items which we are now able or willing to calculate this may hold true. But when looking behind pure financial indicators rural areas are large producers or better keepers of value in terms of quality of life, health, food, nature conservation, social interaction, resources for future, space and happiness if you want. It is not the question how to use those resources for the development of urban areas which is often discussed but the question how to keep value of the rural areas and preserve it for the future.

How can rural and urban areas mutually benefit from cooperating on sustainable food systems?

Provision of locally produced, sustainable food can reduce environmental footprint of urban areas which will contribute to better and healthier living conditions. This may also contribute to improvement of environmental and climate indicators by reducing the concentrated environmental hot spots.

In the other hand the sustainable food systems will help in establishing healthy food habits among people which will not only help them live better but also contribute to the national economic agenda in cutting costs with preventive measures rather than large investments in health systems. This may be achieved with developing healthier diet practices among general public and with and with active policy measures like public procurement for schools and public institutions.

The sustainable food systems will improve the economy of rural areas and increase employment, innovation and grow resilience. This will improve the quality of life in rural areas and improve the demographic picture of several parts of Europe.

The sustainable food system will improve the social cohesion and networks among urban and rural which will further open possibilities for innovation and collaborative economy.

For more follow:

for even more follow the ROBUST project website.