Understanding urban consumption will be critical in transforming food systems

The links between the environmental and health impacts of our food are becoming ever more apparent. Intensive production and consumption have increased the availability of food, but it has also given rise to land degradation, climate change, water scarcity, and an epidemic of obesity.

Tackling these connections between ecological health and public health is crucial to transforming global food systems. But with much of the world transitioning to Western, meat-rich, processed diets, and so many trade-offs between health and environment, how can a shared understanding of sustainable, healthy, and environmentally beneficial food be reached?

Pulling together fragmented reporting and recommendations

As a starting point, it’s important to understand that decisions taken in one policy area such as health recommendations, may have implications for ecosystems and natural resources in another. Recommendations on Omega3 and fish stocks are a classic example of this. By pulling together and understanding the interactions between fragmented recommendations and reporting indexes spanning public health and food that we can start to define what a “sustainable healthy diet” really means.

But, moreover, we need to look beyond primary food production and agriculture as a way to solve these issues, and to see the impact of the whole value chain and its interactions. This involves sourcing, trading, packaging, production, distribution and consumption. In particular, tackling the consumption part—consumer behaviour—is key to enabling the necessary shift in food consumption patterns towards healthier and more sustainable diets.

Consumption trends in cities matter

Cities are paramount in understanding and stimulating improvement in consumption trends. Approximately 54 per cent of the world’s population was living in cities in 2016, and this number is expected to increase to 60 per cent by 2030. The increase of population in large, megacities cities is giving rise to a number of challenges and opportunities.

First of all, people living in cities tend to purchase food instead of growing their own, which makes them more vulnerable to food price changes. As in cities the cost of space goes up, the price of both household and retail space increases. As a result, people are storing less food, shopping more frequently with smaller baskets, and consuming more food outside the home. Higher food consumption in city households also means more concentrated food waste accumulation, with opportunities for technology to help increase the efficiency of sorting and recapturing food waste in ways that promote an efficient circular food system. 

Food reform for sustainability and health

These are the early stage findings coming out of our food consumption work on the Food Reform for Sustainability and Health (FReSH) project, a project launched by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the EAT Foundation (EAT) in January, with 30 global, multi-national food companies. The aim is to understand what the value chain and urban food consumption—the interactions, trade-offs and synergies—really means for sustainable, healthy diets.

Major companies with global food value chains, including Kellogg Company, Unilever and Danone Group, are working to share expertise and information on science and markets, and develop partnerships with non-business stakeholders. Under a project supported by Climate-KIC, these companies agreed to open up information to help identify relevant scalable solutions to the various sustainability challenges, including climate change mitigation. What we can learn from this private sector engagement will be a huge leap forward.

There is no single definition of what a “sustainable, healthy diet” is. It is only by taking an umbrella approach, opening up silos and data, and really understanding consumption that we can identify the opportunities to transform the global food system for ecological public health.

Emeline Fellus is programme manager at FReSH, a  joint programme between EAT and WBCSD, to accelerate transformational change in global food systems, and achieve inclusive, healthy, diets produced responsibly within planetary boundaries. 

You can hear Emeline speak at the A New Urban Food Culture, 13.30, Monday 30 October. 

Urban food, understanding consumption trends in cities, innovation in diets and local food production, will be a focus at this year’s Climate Innovation Summit. Register for the Climate Innovation Summit today!

 
Location
Related Goal
Goal 5: Reform food systems
Articles you may be interested in
In The News
City Finance Lab completes successful pilot with City of Bologna

Supported by EIT Climate KIC’s Low Carbon City Lab...

City Finance Lab completes successful pilot with City of Bologna
In Detail
Increasing the resilience and sustainability of European forests

What are the climate challenges faced by European temperate forests? What is their potential for climate mitigation, directly, and by relieving commercial pressures on...

Increasing the resilience and sustainability of European forests
In our community
Interview with Christopher Lee, CEO, Climate-KIC Australia
Interview with Christopher Lee, CEO, Climate-KIC Australia
In The News
Zero-water shampoo start-up wins Smart Agrifood Summit award

A biodegradable cosmetics start-up using agricultural waste to make...

Zero-water shampoo start-up wins Smart Agrifood Summit award
In our community
Marie Dittmann, creator of Future of Farming MOOC
Marie Dittmann, creator of Future of Farming MOOC
In The News
Solar Impulse network joins forces with EIT Climate-KIC to accelerate innovati...

EIT Climate-KIC, Europe’s main climate innovation initiative has joined...

Solar Impulse network joins forces with EIT Climate-KIC to accelerate innovation
In The News
Hyperloop pioneers welcome a new era in high-speed transportation with industr...

Leading hyperloop companies TransPod (from Canada), Hardt Hyperloop (from...

Hyperloop pioneers welcome a new era in high-speed transportation with industry-first international alliance
In our community
We’re in innovation, right? So why interact in such traditional ways?
Dr Michelle Zucker EIT Climate-KIC Community Management Lead
We’re in innovation, right? So why interact in such traditional ways?
Innovation Spotlight
How mushroom mycelia are transforming industrial materials

In Innovation Spotlight, we explore some of the most promising innovations from around our community. This week,...

How mushroom mycelia are transforming industrial materials
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC’s Carbon Delta takes on climate disclosures project with...

Carbon Delta, the climate risk analysis company supported by...

EIT Climate-KIC’s Carbon Delta takes on climate disclosures project with the UN
In our community
Interview with Prof. Jacopo Gaspari of EIT Climate-KIC’s PhD Catapult
Interview with Prof. Jacopo Gaspari of EIT Climate-KIC’s PhD Catapult
In The News
Introducing the Innovation Review

EIT Climate-KIC this week launches Innovation Review — a...

Introducing the Innovation Review
Opinion
We need mandatory due diligence on investments, says EU rapporteur
Molly Scott Cato MEP for the South West of England and Gibraltar; Green Party speaker on Brexit and on Finance
We need mandatory due diligence on investments, says EU rapporteur
In The News
Renewables crowdfunding platform Lumo acquired by Société Générale

Renewable energy crowdfunding platform fintech Lumo, supported by EIT...

Renewables crowdfunding platform Lumo acquired by Société Générale
In The News
Clean energy, urban farming and sustainable housing hacked at urban solutions ...

Clean energy, urban farming and sustainable housing were the...

Clean energy, urban farming and sustainable housing hacked at urban solutions conference
Innovation Spotlight
Ombrea’s smart agriculture system overshadows climate change

In Innovation Spotlight, we explore some of the most promising innovations from around our community. This week,...

Ombrea’s smart agriculture system overshadows climate change
Innovation Spotlight
Business is blooming for microalgae start-up MiAlgae

In Innovation Spotlight, we explore some of the most promising innovations from around our community. This week,...

Business is blooming for microalgae start-up MiAlgae
In our community
Mariia Murasheva, Secretary, EIT Climate-KIC Alumni Association
Mariia Murasheva, Secretary, EIT Climate-KIC Alumni Association
In Detail
Low carbon opportunities in Europe’s building sector

The first analysis of deep retrofit in Europe, the Building Market Briefs presents a survey of Europe’s building sector value chain. The building sector...

Low carbon opportunities in Europe’s building sector
In Detail
Transformative innovation for prosperous and low-carbon industry

How can a more circular economy contribute to cutting CO2 emissions? This report explores a broad range of opportunities for the four largest materials...

Transformative innovation for prosperous and low-carbon industry
Innovation Spotlight
2nd SKIN paves the way to decarbonise Europe’s existing housing stock

In Innovation Spotlight, we explore some of the most promising innovations from around our community. This week,...

2nd SKIN paves the way to decarbonise Europe’s existing housing stock
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC to boost innovation capacity in Croatia, Greece and Lithuania

EIT Climate-KIC is expanding its network with the creation...

EIT Climate-KIC to boost innovation capacity in Croatia, Greece and Lithuania
In our community
Interview with Alberto Bellini, Project Coordinator for eCircular
Interview with Alberto Bellini, Project Coordinator for eCircular
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC aims to slash industrial plastic use through innovation in dig...

EIT Climate-KIC and partners have launched an exciting programme to...

EIT Climate-KIC aims to slash industrial plastic use through innovation in digital tools
In The News
Europe’s students begin summer-long Journey to tackle climate change

The Journey, the world’s largest climate innovation summer school,...

Europe’s students begin summer-long Journey to tackle climate change
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC shines the spotlight on distributed ledger technology at Innov...

As it’s a relatively new technology, practical applications for...

EIT Climate-KIC shines the spotlight on distributed ledger technology at Innovate4Climate
In The News
City Finance Lab to launch beginning of June

A new initiative run by South Pole Group and...

City Finance Lab to launch beginning of June
In The News
Can cities find sustainable solutions in Copenhagen?

 EIT Climate-KIC this week (23 May) hosts the Sustainable...

Can cities find sustainable solutions in Copenhagen?
In The News
Fresh boost to industrial symbiosis in Europe

EIT Climate-KIC has teamed up with five partners to...

Fresh boost to industrial symbiosis in Europe
In The News
Europe’s annual climate innovation summit to be held in emerging green finan...

The 2018 Climate Innovation Summit, Europe’s leading event on climate...

Europe’s annual climate innovation summit to be held in emerging green finance centre Dublin