FoodWorks – New York City’s innovative and ambitious food strategy

On November 22nd, the New York City Council presented a comprehensive plan that sets a bold vision for a more sustainable food system. The plan, ‘FoodWorks’, addresses sustainability and health issues at every phase of the food system – from agricultural production, processing, distribution, consumption and post-consumption. The objectives of FoodWorks range from combating hunger and obesity to preserving regional farming and local food manufacturing to decreasing waste and energy usage.

FoodWorks contains 59 policy proposals spanning five phases of the food system. The proposals include new legislation, funding initiatives and far-reaching goals that present a long-term vision for a better food system.

  • Agricultural Production – Support regional farmers, strengthen regional linkages, and increase urban food production 
  • Processing – Generate growth and employment in the food sector
  • Distribution – Improve food distribution channels into and within the city
  • Consumption – Fresh food must be available to New Yorkers regardless of where they live
  • Post-Consumption – Seize opportunities to reduce and recapture waste

The New York Council worked with experts including farmers, gardeners, chefs, partners in government and labor, as well as hunger and environmental advocates throughout the process of developing the Food Works report.  Both content-wise and process-wise New York City’s food policy FoodWorks is innovative and ambitious and can serve as an inspiration for many city councils across the world.

Students, Broilers and Sustainability

Last week about 60 Msc students followed a week on socio-cultural sustainability of organic production chains, as part of the course ‘Analysis and Management of Sustainable Organic Production Chains’. Each week of the course focused on a specific component of sustainability (consumer, socio-cultural, environmental, economic), given by a different chair group. Last  week was under supervision and teaching of our Rural Sociology group.The lectures and assignments focused on socio-cultural sustainability and discussed chain perception from a societal point of view and the context dependency of indicators for socio-cultural sustainability.

During the course, the students worked in multidisciplinary and multicultural groups of 6 students. Each group represented a stakeholder in the broiler production chain (e.g. fodder company, farmers, retailers, animal welfare organization, slaughterhouse). Of the 60 students, only 1 student had a background in sociology. Others were involved in economics, agronomy or other natural-science based disciplines. Consequently, it was challenging for many of the students to change their way of thinking and reasoning to a more sociological mindset.  Moreover, one week is extremely short to do this. This resulted in hard working students and heated debates among group members.

By the end of the week, the students were requested to  – on the basis of earlier assignments that week – come up with actions that would make the broiler production chain more socio-cultural sustainable  from their stakeholder perspective. Several groups raised suggestions  like shorter production chains, more regional production and stronger embeddedness in the region. Although these themes were not explicitly tackled during this week, I was happy to hear these suggestions, because our Rural Sociology group is engaged in such themes.  

Overall, it was a week of hard working – for the students as well as the teacher ;-) – but when I look back, it makes me happy that the students themselves came up with interesting and creative ideas in just one week!

FAQs for PUREFOOD vacancies

We have received a high number of inquiries with regard to our 12 PUREFOOD vacancies. It is good to see there is so much interest in these topics!
Most reactions were inquiries about similar issues. Therefore, we have prepared a list of FAQs for the PUREFOOD vacancies. Please have a look at this list of FAQs before sending us an e-mail!

PUREFOOD – 12 vacancies for ESRs are open

As mentioned in an earlier post on this weblog, the Rural Sociology Group has been granted the the coordination of a Marie Curie Initial Training Network  entitled ‘Urban, peri-urban and regional food dynamics: toward an integrated and territorial approach to food (PUREFOOD)’ funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework PEOPLE program. The objective of PUREFOOD is to train a pool of 12 early-stage researchers (ESRs) in the socio-economic and socio-spatial dynamics of the (peri-)urban and regional foodscape. The PUREFOOD network is centred around food as an integrated and territorial mode of governance and studies the emergence of the (peri-)urban foodscape as an alternative (as opposed to a globalised) geography of food, including the ways in which, and the extent to which, sustainability aspects generally considered to be intrinsic to the alternative food geography are incorporated by the more conventional food companies.

As of now all 12 PUREFOOD research vacancies have been published (or soon will be) by the host universities. For information about the ESR vacancies and application guidelines, you can download the PUREFOOD vacancies leaflet. For more information about the objectives, training and research approach and training program of PUREFOOD you can download the PUREFOOD information pack for prospective ESRs. The deadline for application is 3 January 2011.

Eligibility criteria

The enhancement of transnational mobility to improve career perspectives of early stage researchers is the main goal of the Marie Curie Initial Training funding. To achieve this objective the following eligibility criteria for prospective ESRs have been formulated:

  • You are eligible as an ESR if you are, at the time of recruitment (i) in possession of a university degree, and (ii) have a maximum of four years of full-time research experience, including any period of research training. This is measured from the date when you obtained the degree which formally entitles you to embark on a doctorate, either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the research training is provided. Please not that ESRs cannot be PhD holders.
  • You are eligible to the position if, at the time of the selection by the host university, you did not reside or carry out your main activity (work, studies, etc) in the country of the host university for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to your recruitment.

If you have any questions about a vacancy please contact the contact person mentioned in the vacancy announcement. For general question about PUREFOOD please contact me (han.wiskerke@wur.nl).

AESOP; the government in the garden

Queen Elisabeth's Vegetable Garden. Photo:John Stillwell/PA Wire

Why is the government in the garden? This was the title of the last presentation in our Working Group Urban Food Governance at the AESOP conference this weekend in Brighton. Some governments are getting into the garden, case studies presented by conference participants showed how and why. Food is ‘becoming public’ a process of taking responsibility for what has been seen until very recently as a pure free-market issue. Public planning and action occurs for various reasons; because of urban health and obesity, the Urban Heat Island effect, food security in poor neighborhoods or in response to civic actions and food movements.

Notwithstanding the promising examples, there is reason for worry too. The political climate has shifted markedly in countries such as the UK and the Netherlands and budget cuts are threatening the sustainable food agenda because this ‘additional’ issue came in last and is the first to be thrown out. A second reason is what seems to me a continuing planner’s identity crisis. The philosopher Hans Achterhuis admits in his recent book that neoliberalism became so much the norm that the process of how it slipped into virtually every policy by small pragmatic adjustments happened unseen even for many of the critics.

Planning seems the opposite of neoliberalism. At the conference, we were stimulated to start planning again, the word master plan fell and was heavily debated. Planning –by default – seems to restrict choice. And free choice is the symbol and myth of neoliberalism with which few people dare to interfere. It is an unproductive and misleading contrast. As if no planning takes place now. Urban planners who decide upon the location for a supermarket are planning, the question is, which criteria are used and which of those do conflict with other public interests? The neoliberal idea of planners restricting choices has encroached the belief that planners can counteract private business interests. They can and should I think. The case studies often showed that current successful examples developed from a particular local  ‘culture’ among those working with urban food planning incorporating public values such as equity, fairness, access and community.

The presentations and keynotes will be made available over the course of the coming week at the conference website

Urban Agriculture: Havana as inspiration for the Hague

Yesterday the movie ‘Borders in Our Mind’ about urban agriculture in Havana and the Hague had its premiere at Stroom in the Hague. The documentary was made by artists Annechien Meier and Gaston Wallé. Central theme of Annechien’s work is the communication between people in urban and rural environments. With her installations she tries to rouse people’s curiosity about their interaction with the environment around them. Producing food in the city, is one way of doing this. She departs from the idea that allotment gardens reflect values of a culture in a specific time and place and give possibilities for people to come in touch with each other and the (natural) world around them.

Annechien also started the project ‘Panderplein’ in the Brouwersgracht in the Hague. Here, she built a vegetable garden in cooperation with the inhabitants. Since this summer, the first vegetables have been harvested! It is amazing and wonderful to discover such a green spot in the center of the city, and moreover the project contributes to social cohesion in the neighborhood.

For the film ‘Borders in Our Mind’, Annechien went to Cuba, Havana, to learn more about the possibilities for urban agriculture. Havana has a history of urban agriculture since the 1990s  due to petrol shortages, food shortages and economic crisis. Today more than 50% of Havana’s fresh produce is still grown within the city limits. No wonder Annechien choose this city to visit as inspiration for her work in the Netherlands. In the one-hour- movie many different forms, features and possibilities of urban agriculture pass in review. The result is indeed inspiring for anyone who is engaged in or concerned about food production in urban areas.

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