Alternative food networks and opportunities for transformation towards a sustainable and resilient urban food system
Food systems are suffering from pressures related to population growth, increased urbanisation, climate change, and resource scarcity. These pressures are exacerbated by globalisation, with consumers concentrated in urban areas while producers are dispersed across rural areas that are often remote or even in different countries. To address these challenges and create a more sustainable and resilient future, many local governments have embraced the idea of urban food systems. The literature identifies a range of sustainable and resilient outcomes for urban food systems but finding effective transition pathways remains a challenge.
Alternative food networks have emerged with the goal of being more environmentally sustainable and socially just. A systematic literature review was conducted to identify how alternative food networks can contribute to achieving sustainable and resilient urban food systems. The analysis of 50 international case studies showed that alternative food networks may be able to create a food provision system that contributes to: the generation, transfer, and appropriate use of food knowledge and skills; the protection of surrounding ecosystems; more participative decision processes; improved local food supply; and, increased connectivity between urban and rural areas.
Social justice and product diversity, however, are issues that remain a challenge. The paper concludes with insights for supporting Australian alternative food networks, including: the further evaluation of alternative food networks capacity of reducing green-house gas emissions and food loss and waste; the inclusion of alternative food networks as a possible climate change adaptation strategy for urban food supply; and an analysis of how governance arrangements can better support these initiatives.