Planners are discovering food. Until recently, planners left food to the market. But times are changing and so are attitudes towards planning for food. This was the general notion during the first European Sustainable Food Planning conference, held last friday and saturday in Almere (see blog for program).
There is less timidity to interfere with what until recently was seen as the private sphere of consumer choice. Neoliberalism has lost its credibility and the myth of consumer choice is weakening. Food becomes part of the urban public agenda again. Jerry Kaufman, professor emeritus in Urban and Regional Planning at University of Wisconsin showed how food slowly gained the interest of the US planning community over the last ten years with many young people interested nowadays.
Food is back in the public realm for two reasons. First the recognition that access to healthy food is a citizen right. People with low income eat less well, pay more and have less access to healthy foods. Planners have a task in changing obesogenic environments. We were reminded that the first health policies 150 years ago started with food.
And second, food is related to a large number of domains which all are facing food related problems. Transport congestion through consumer shopping and supply delivery; health and well being of a rapidly increasing obesogenic population; environmental problems related to food miles, food scares and pollution of industrial agriculture and so on.
The sustainability agenda which is now penetrating to all sectors of the economy demands a holistic view. We saw examples of how city departments can not work in isolation to this problem in a meaningful way. We need cross-department and cross-disciplinary working to bring planning, health, transport, supply, production and consumption knowledge together. “We spent 20 years defining sustainability, we now can design it”.