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Resilient Cities - Bonn 2013 - Banner

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Resilient Urban Food Systems Forum


  • A forum for actors in the city-region food system to come together to discuss and put into action the implementation of resilient food systems within cities around the world;
  • To generate heightened awareness and strengthened political commitment in local governments in order to create resilient urban food systems; and
  • To foster knowledge sharing and learning, across diverse cities and between sectors, with ongoing benefits for communities, local governments, businesses, researchers, NGOs and international organizations.

What is a food system?

This encompasses the networks of actors involved in the supply of, and demand for, food and their activities and interactions at multiple levels across spatial, temporal, jurisdictional and other scales, together with the network’s food and nutritional security outcomes over time.[1] Here this is applied to the city-region to explore resilient urban food systems.

[1] Misselhorn, A., Aggarwal, P., Erickson, P., Gregory, P., Horn-Phathanothai, L., Ingram, J., and Wiebe, K. (2012) A vision for attaining food security. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 4:7-17.

What is a resilient urban food system?

Photo by juicyverve (Flickr)

Diverse: Resilient food systems diversify and connect urban spaces and city food supply chains through enhancing biodiversity, seed systems, ecosystem services, and varieties of plants and animals while incorporating urban, peri-urban and city-region agriculture.

Distributed: Strengthening urban-rural flows of food, produce, inputs (seeds, fertilizers), workforces, and remittances. Growing produce in various locations in and around the city to distribute the interconnected food system: centrally and peripherally, vertically and horizontally.

Natural: Agriculture in and around cities harnesses and creates synergies between climate, biodiversity and food system needs, while contributing to better management of natural resources, flood risk mitigation, and protection of water catchments.

Innovative: Ways to close waste cycles, to recycle nutrients, to incentivize restoration of surrounding landscapes. Technology, design and creativity are vital in the food system design, no matter where: on roof tops, patios, walls, schools, community gardens, rehabilitated sites, wholesale markets, community supported agriculture and public procurement by local governments. 

Social: People are at the heart of the food system, driving it, and providing the benefits of employment opportunities , livelihoods for regional resource managers, poverty alleviation, community building, markets, networks (e.g. local food councils), and citizens powerful in their choices as consumers.

Inclusive: Multiple actors are involved - private (producers, transporters, processors, sellers), public (local and central government) and active organisations and citizen led initiatives.

Why do we need a resilient urban food system?

Photo by David Barrie (Flickr)

Ensuring food and nutrition security[2], the human right to food, poverty and hunger eradication, whilst addressing obesity, drives the need for cities to closely consider the role and resilience of their food systems.

Urbanization will increase over the coming decades, and so the pressures on food systems within and outside of cities will increase, meaning cities need to act now and develop strategies that also consider the surrounding rural areas.

Threats to supplies (e.g. heavy rains, droughts, floods, and storms) leading to shortages of food and disruptions to supply will become more common as a result of the local impacts of climate change on crops and animals. Associated rising food prices directly affect urban poor, who spend the majority of their income on food, leading to an increase in poverty.

Green productive agricultural spaces such as those in urban agriculture and forestry, absorb greenhouse gases, mitigate urban heat island effects and reduce energy demands on heating and cooling, while absorbing excess storm water when cities flood.

[2] "Food and nutrition security exists when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to food, which is safe and consumed in sufficient quantity and quality to meet their dietary needs and food preferences, and is supported by an environment of adequate sanitation, health services and care, allowing for a healthy and active life.” Committee on World Food Security (CFS) (October 2012), 39th Session, CFS 2012/39/4: “Coming to terms with terminology.” Online: (accessed November 2012).