This Big City and Future Cape Town hosted our first #citytalk tweetchat of 2013 last week, looking at Food and the City, which, after much discussion certainly provided food for thought. The importance of the topic was once again highlighted at the Rio +20 summit last June, where food security was listed as one of the 7 critical issues that needed to be addressed by the summit. The discussions were once again constructive and fast-paced, with ideas ranging from the complexities of food security to food wastage, the contextual importance of urban farming and even the traditional dishes with which some cities are associated with.

Here are 8 perspectives on the topic:

Tackling food security in cities

The food security challenges in cities can vary between the location of the city. While some cities may be at risk due to extreme water shortages, possibly a factor of their location or poor water management, other cities struggle around the paralysis, and at times, non-existence of the required policies and legislation to enhance the food security of the region.

Defining resilience in the context of food

The definition of resilience came under the spotlight several times in 2012. While planning to be a more resilient city may suggest that cities should be more independent, it should not exclude the importance of building partnerships with other nearby cities and regions, in particular where the production of food is involved. The consensus was that it was not necessarily possible for a city to produce all its own food, but that it should be fully aware of its supply chain, and plan for contingencies.

Food and the brand of a city

It is not necessarily the type of food which is part of a city’s brand, or even where the food originates from, but also how this food is sold and shared. San Francico’s food trucks and the fish markets of Buenos Aires become a part of the food and brand offering of those cities, and as a result many other cities have begun adopting some of these ideas.

Food wastage

Many ideas exists to reduce food wastage, which requires households to work together, and communities to develop projects and schemes which considers a wide spectrum of the socio-economic groups in that community. 

Finding ways to encourage urban farming

There are many interesting approaches to support urban farming but one thing to keep in mind is that this support should be based on how appropriate urban farming is food a city or community, and be aware of the potential conflicts and challenges. Where urban farming is appropriate, ideas like the food-ops in Brooklyn and encouraging civic scale farming like fruit trees and herb gardens are popular.

Educating citizens about food. How?

Education. Education. Education. While the fitness and exercise industries are mega-money spinners, campaigns focused on educating citizens about the benefits of a good diet, and nutritious food seems to take a backseat.

Economic growth and access to food

Economic growth can have a dramatic impact on lifting people out of poverty and significantly enhance their access to food, but it should not be seen as the bullet to solve malnourishment, in particular where vast inequalities still exist even in the developed and wealthy nations.

Traditional dishes of your city?

We ended off our #CityTalk with some yummy thoughts. Tacos, pizza, bagels, pies and mash. But where is the healthy food?