Topic: Social justice-oriented ambitions in urban food strategies of European medium-sized cities: Fair objectives or just aspirations?
Keywords: urban food strategies; social justice; policy discourse; European medium-sized cities
Abstract: Whereas in the past food has long been regarded as a rural, agricultural or (supra)national issue, cities are now gradually (re-)entering the food governance field. International platforms and networks, such as the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP) and the EUROCITIES working group food, are encouraging cities to acknowledge their position and responsibilities within the food system, to reconnect with their inner and outer city agricultural areas and to implement food as a cross-cutting theme within their policy frameworks. To guide these efforts and practices, cities often develop urban food strategies (UFSs): comprehensive vision documents which outline desirable urban foodscapes for the future, create synergies between different policy domains and objectives and map existing and recommended initiatives, measures and courses of action that are (in)directly linked to food. One emerging but highly complex theme shaping these urban food governance efforts concerns social justice within the food system. In this paper, we will discuss the findings of a systematic content analysis of the social justice-oriented ambitions and action steps formulated in the UFSs of European medium-sized cities (100.000-500.000 inhabitants) that participate in the MUFPP and/or EUROCITIES working group food. Through this exploratory document analysis, we aim to capture the policy discourse and explore similarities and discrepancies in addressing issues of social justice within a European urban food governance context. Distinct attention is given to direct and indirect references to prominent social justice-oriented perspectives in food systems literature – i.e. food justice, food sovereignty, food democracy and (community) food security – and to provided arguments and motivations for including a social justice perspective in the UFS. This initial study will form the starting point for a more in-depth investigation examining the dissemination and implementation trajectories of social justice-oriented UFS ambitions, which will also consider the needs, experiences and views of groups that feel excluded from or not represented in their cities’ food policies.