True urban resilience can only be achieved through food systems thinking

Food systems thinking must be brought to the fore in discussions of urban resilience, and can no longer be relegated to an afterthought. In a new JAFSCD reflective essay, FLEdGE researchers and community partners examine the Sustainable Development Goals, New Urban Agenda, and Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, to generate prescriptive recommendations and calls to action. They draw on various community-based research projects, from the Toronto Food Policy Council and Montréal’s planned agricultural zone and smart cities approach in Canada, to Kitwe city-region food system in Zambia, to Paraná state’s agroforestry and agroecological practices in Brazil.

While authors Patricia Ballamingie, Alison Blay-Palmer, Irena Knezevic, André Lacerda, Evelyn Nimmo, Lori Stahlbrand, and Rotem Ayalon conducted research and analysis for this publication before the COVID-19 pandemic, their work highlights the need for more integrated urban-rural linkages to enable just and sustainable local food systems that will prove resilient in the context of shocks, including pandemics and the climate crisis. The pandemic has brought into sharp focus the vulnerability of our food system, and the critical role of food system planning to mitigate risk.

The full article can be found here:

Article authors preparing to speak at ICLEI Conference in 2018. From left: Irena Knezevic (moderator), Rotem Ayalon, Lori Stahlbrand, Patricia Ballamingie, Evelyn Nimmo, Andre de Lacerda 

Key Findings

  • Small- and midsized cities must be considered (alongside megacities), as key sites through which food systems are enacted, potentially impacting significant portions of the global population.
  • Urban, peri-urban, and rural linkages across the city-region food system must be enhanced.
  • Policies and governance must better articulate across scale, with appropriate mechanisms in place to monitor progress and ensure accountability.
  • Attempts to translate projects from one geopolitical or cultural context to another, or from one scale to another, must account for the specificity of place and scale – including the unique constellation of existing actors working on related topics in each context.
  • Deep adaptation to climate change must frame all food systems thinking moving forward.
  • Innovation must be conceived of beyond the narrow construct of technological advancement to include social and ecological dimensions.

Recommendations for Policy, Practice, and Research

  • Municipalities around the world ought to adopt a city-region food systems lens, and avail themselves of experts from CITYFOOD, RUAF and FAO as well as local food systems actors from civil society and academia.
  • Explore potential to expand Milan Pact to small- and mid-sized cities.
  • Achieve municipal food systems governance through participatory and collaborative processes that bring together diverse stakeholders.
  • Support initiatives to interconnect food policy actors to effectively engage in food systems governance, network and share best practices, build capacity, create a database of policies, diffuse social and environmental innovations, enable comparative research, and aggregate technical assistance.
  • Engage planners and planning departments as critical actors in urban policy-making and urban design, including development of curricular supports.
  • Encourage food systems thinking in discussions of urban resilience, governance, and related policies.


Adaptation, City-Region, Food Systems, Scale, Governance, International Agreements, Urban Resilience