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Special Issue "Sustainable Food Chains"

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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 October 2013)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Han Wiskerke (Website1, Website2)

1. Rural Sociology Group, Wageningen University, Hollandseweg 1, 6706 KN Wageningen, The Netherlands
2. Foodscapes Research Group, Academy of Architecture, Amsterdam School of Arts, Waterlooplein 213, 1011 PG Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Phone: +31 317 482679
Fax: +31 317 485475
Interests: rural development; agri-food studies; alternative food networks; urban food provisioning; food planning; city-region food systems; foodscape studies and design; urban-rural linkages

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Our current food system is facing major sustainability challenges. About 65% of the daily water consumption is used for the production and processing of food. The Western style diet requires between 7 and 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of food energy, when looking at energy use in the entire food chain. Both water and fossil fuel are likely to become scarce, in particular in light of the expected growth of the world population from the current 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050. Furthermore, the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers has contributed to environmental pollution and degradation. The focus on high yielding plant varieties and animal breeds has caused massive genetic erosion, due to the disappearance of many diverse populations of crops and animals maintained by farmers and adapted to local circumstances. In addition, large areas of rainforest, and concomitantly flora and fauna species, are disappearing as more land is needed for the production of animal feed and biofuels. Finally our food system is characterized by diet-related ill-health: over 1 billion people are overweight and many suffer from obesity-related diseases while also more than 1 billion people suffer from malnutrition and hunger. Lack of resources, environmental degradation and diet-related ill-health are just a few of the problems inherent to our food system. Other issues of concern are for instance food waste, climate change, soil degradation, competition over land use and large social inequalities in access to food.

Taking into account the challenge of feeding 2 billion more people by 2050, the current system of food provisioning seems to be heading for a catastrophe. This may indeed be true if we stick to business as usual or keep focussing on single challenges, as solutions for one problem may well lead to a worsening of other issues. Hence, the aforementioned challenges cannot be addressed as single issues, but need to be dealt with as an interrelated and mutually reinforcing set of challenges. Despite the gloomy picture, there is also reason to be hopeful: across the globe there are many examples emerging (initiated by farmers, consumers, retailers, food industries and/or NGOs) that (attempt to) address (several of) the aforementioned challenges.

This special issue would like to explore those solutions for more sustainable food supply chains and welcomes conceptual and theoretical contributions as well as original research papers on the subject. We are especially interested in papers of an integrative nature, exploring and examining the interrelated ecological, economic and social dimensions of sustainable food provisioning. Finally this special issue seeks a balanced contribution of papers from the global North and South.

Prof. Dr. Han Wiskerke
Guest Editor

Submission

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed Open Access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs).

Keywords

  • environmental sustainability
  • economic sustainability
  • socio-cultural sustainability
  • food chain
  • agriculture
  • food consumption
  • resource use efficiency
  • world population growth
  • diet
  • global food chains
  • local food networks

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Exploring Sustainable Urban Food Provisioning: The Case of Eggs in Dar es Salaam
Sustainability 2014, 6(6), 3747-3779; doi:10.3390/su6063747
Received: 21 April 2014 / Revised: 27 May 2014 / Accepted: 28 May 2014 / Published: 10 June 2014
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (2747 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Global food supply is dominated by transnational corporations, which have great power and are widely critiqued for the negative environmental and social impacts of their operations. Many argue that this industrial food system is unsustainable, yet its expansion seems inevitable and alternatives [...] Read more.
Global food supply is dominated by transnational corporations, which have great power and are widely critiqued for the negative environmental and social impacts of their operations. Many argue that this industrial food system is unsustainable, yet its expansion seems inevitable and alternatives are seen as incapable of feeding the world’s growing and increasingly urban population. Since much of the world’s future population growth is going to happen in the cities of the developing world, they have become the frontline for the expansion of the industrial food system, raising the serious challenge of ensuring food security for residents. This paper, based on a qualitative study of patterns of egg provisioning in Dar es Salaam, explores whether existing patterns of food supply in this rapidly growing city, of over four million people, provide workable alternatives. Eggs are an important source of nutrition and patterns of egg supply offer a lens through which to explore the sustainability of different modes of provisioning. A range of non-corporate provisioning patterns, based on small-scale enterprises, are found to have social, economic and environmental advantages, challenging assumptions that corporate food chains are necessary, or desirable, to feed cities sustainably. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Food Chains)
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Open AccessArticle Strategies and Tools for Eco-Efficient Local Food Supply Scenarios
Sustainability 2014, 6(2), 631-651; doi:10.3390/su6020631
Received: 31 October 2013 / Revised: 8 January 2014 / Accepted: 23 January 2014 / Published: 28 January 2014
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (1504 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Considering the wide demand for daily meals, the issue of the institutional food system has become very important in highly developed societies and, also, how it affects the flow of energy and matter within a territory. This research originates from a wide [...] Read more.
Considering the wide demand for daily meals, the issue of the institutional food system has become very important in highly developed societies and, also, how it affects the flow of energy and matter within a territory. This research originates from a wide multi-disciplinary project aimed at developing a self-sufficient approach to improve the institutional food system in an area of Northern Italy. Thus, the aim of this research is to give some guidelines to implement ideal scenarios of food production, processing, consumption, and waste management at the local level. To that end, the organization of the supply and demand within the local institutional food system is inquired. A methodology has been developed to analyze the main energy flows and matter related to this catering, and to outline possible optimal scenarios. This methodology also allows to analyze case studies and to formulate improvements in order to reduce their energy consumption while exploring all the steps of the supply chain (considering the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach). The use of quantitative indicators allows a comparison of the impacts related to the different steps characterizing the suggested scenarios. This paper presents results related to a test in the context of institutional catering in public schools. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Food Chains)
Open AccessArticle Wild Food, Prices, Diets and Development: Sustainability and Food Security in Urban Cameroon
Sustainability 2013, 5(11), 4728-4759; doi:10.3390/su5114728
Received: 2 August 2013 / Revised: 15 October 2013 / Accepted: 25 October 2013 / Published: 7 November 2013
Cited by 9 | PDF Full-text (784 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This article analyses wild food consumption in urban areas of Cameroon. Building upon findings from Cameroon’s Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CFSVA) this case study presents empirical data collected from 371 household and market surveys in Cameroonian cities. It employs the [...] Read more.
This article analyses wild food consumption in urban areas of Cameroon. Building upon findings from Cameroon’s Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CFSVA) this case study presents empirical data collected from 371 household and market surveys in Cameroonian cities. It employs the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food’s framework for understanding challenges related to the availability, accessibility, and adequacy of food. The survey data suggest that many wild/traditional foods are physically available in Cameroonian cities most of the time, including fruits, vegetables, spices, and insects. Cameroonians spend considerable sums of their food budget on wild foods. However, low wages and the high cost of city living constrain the social and economic access most people have to these foods. The data also suggest that imports of non-traditional staple foods, such as low cost rice, have increasingly priced potentially more nutritious or safe traditional local foods out of markets after the 2008 food price crisis. As a result, diets are changing in Cameroon as the resource-constrained population continues to resort to the coping strategy of eating cheaper imported foods such as refined rice or to eating less frequently. Cameroon’s nutrition transition continues to be driven by need and not necessarily by the preferences of Cameroonian consumers. The implications of this reality for sustainability are troubling. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Food Chains)
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Open AccessArticle Do Local Food Networks Foster Socio-Ecological Transitions towards Food Sovereignty? Learning from Real Place Experiences
Sustainability 2013, 5(11), 4778-4796; doi:10.3390/su5114778
Received: 29 August 2013 / Revised: 21 October 2013 / Accepted: 31 October 2013 / Published: 7 November 2013
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (216 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Drawing on transition theory, we conceptualize local food networks as innovations that initially function and develop in local niches within a given food regime. As niche-innovations local food networks induce socio-ecological changes on the local level and they have the potential to [...] Read more.
Drawing on transition theory, we conceptualize local food networks as innovations that initially function and develop in local niches within a given food regime. As niche-innovations local food networks induce socio-ecological changes on the local level and they have the potential to foster wider transformations of the dominant food regime. Many local food networks adopt the concept of food sovereignty as a kind of “leitmotif”. At the core of this concept lies the question of how to create an agro-food system that, (i) allows for democratic participation and civic engagement in food production, and (ii) sets up new relationships that avoid social inequity and the exploitation of both humans and nature. In this paper we shed light on how the Austrian local food network “SpeiseLokal” addresses the challenge of operationalizing the concept of food sovereignty. The case study captures the strategies which local food networks embark on and depicts the difficulties they encounter. The paper aims to identify critical points of intersection that either strengthen or constrain local food networks from becoming established, operating, and up-scaling in the ways they wish; that is, in accordance with the principles and aims of food sovereignty, while avoiding a later assimilation into the dominant food regime. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Food Chains)
Open AccessArticle What Do We Need to Know to Enhance the Environmental Sustainability of Agricultural Production? A Prioritisation of Knowledge Needs for the UK Food System
Sustainability 2013, 5(7), 3095-3115; doi:10.3390/su5073095
Received: 3 May 2013 / Revised: 21 June 2013 / Accepted: 3 July 2013 / Published: 17 July 2013
Cited by 9 | PDF Full-text (195 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Increasing concerns about global environmental change and food security have focused attention on the need for environmentally sustainable agriculture. This is agriculture that makes efficient use of natural resources and does not degrade the environmental systems that underpin it, or deplete natural [...] Read more.
Increasing concerns about global environmental change and food security have focused attention on the need for environmentally sustainable agriculture. This is agriculture that makes efficient use of natural resources and does not degrade the environmental systems that underpin it, or deplete natural capital stocks. We convened a group of 29 ‘practitioners’ and 17 environmental scientists with direct involvement or expertise in the environmental sustainability of agriculture. The practitioners included representatives from UK industry, non-government organizations and government agencies. We collaboratively developed a long list of 264 knowledge needs to help enhance the environmental sustainability of agriculture within the UK or for the UK market. We refined and selected the most important knowledge needs through a three-stage process of voting, discussion and scoring. Scientists and practitioners identified similar priorities. We present the 26 highest priority knowledge needs. Many of them demand integration of knowledge from different disciplines to inform policy and practice. The top five are about sustainability of livestock feed, trade-offs between ecosystem services at farm or landscape scale, phosphorus recycling and metrics to measure sustainability. The outcomes will be used to guide on-going knowledge exchange work, future science policy and funding. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Food Chains)
Open AccessArticle The Future of the Food System: Cases Involving the Private Sector in South Africa
Sustainability 2013, 5(3), 1234-1255; doi:10.3390/su5031234
Received: 3 December 2012 / Revised: 7 March 2013 / Accepted: 8 March 2013 / Published: 19 March 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (193 KB)
Abstract
The food system is facing unprecedented pressure from environmental change exacerbated by the expansion of agri-food corporations that are consolidating their power in the global food chain. Although Africa missed the Green Revolution and the wave of supermarket expansion that hit the [...] Read more.
The food system is facing unprecedented pressure from environmental change exacerbated by the expansion of agri-food corporations that are consolidating their power in the global food chain. Although Africa missed the Green Revolution and the wave of supermarket expansion that hit the West and then spread to Asia and Latin America, this is unlikely to continue. With a large proportion of sub-Saharan African countries’ GDP still heavily reliant on agriculture, global trends in agri-food business are having an increasing impact on African countries. South Africa, a leader in agribusiness on the continent, has a well-established agri-food sector that is facing increasing pressure from various social and environmental sources. This paper uses interview data with corporate executives from South African food businesses to explore how they are adapting to the dual pressures of environmental change and globalisation. It shows that companies now have to adapt to macro-trends both within and outside the formal food sector and how this in turn has repercussions for building sustainable farming systems—both small and large-scale. It concludes with the recognition that building a sustainable food system is a complex process involving a diversity of actors, however changes are already being seen. Businesses have strategically recognised the need to align the economic bottom line with social and environmental factors, but real sustainability will only happen when all stakeholders are included in food governance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Food Chains)

Review

Jump to: Research

Open AccessReview The Contribution of Forests and Trees to Sustainable Diets
Sustainability 2013, 5(11), 4797-4824; doi:10.3390/su5114797
Received: 10 September 2013 / Revised: 29 October 2013 / Accepted: 31 October 2013 / Published: 11 November 2013
Cited by 12 | PDF Full-text (1124 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
With the growing demands from a population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, it is unclear how our current global food system will meet future food needs. Ensuring that all people have access to adequate and nutritious food produced in [...] Read more.
With the growing demands from a population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, it is unclear how our current global food system will meet future food needs. Ensuring that all people have access to adequate and nutritious food produced in an environmentally and socio-culturally sustainable manner is one of the greatest challenges of our time. “Sustainable diets” have been proposed as a multidimensional framework to address the need for nutritious and adequate food in the context of the many challenges facing the world today: reducing poverty and hunger, improving environmental health, enhancing human well-being and health, and strengthening local food networks, sustainable livelihoods and cultural heritage. This paper examines the contribution of forests and trees to sustainable diets, covering among others, nutritional, cultural, environmental and provisioning aspects. The literature reviewed highlight major opportunities to strengthen the contribution of forest and tree foods to sustainable diets. However, several constraints need to be removed. They relate to: cultural aspects, sustainable use of non-wood forest products, organization of forest food provisioning, limited knowledge of forest food composition, challenges in adapting management of forests and trees to account for forest foods, and in integrating forest biodiversity into complex landscapes managed for multiple benefits. Finally, the paper identifies research gaps and makes recommendations to enhance the contribution of forest foods to sustainable diets through increased awareness and better integration of information and knowledge on nutritious forest foods into national nutrition strategies and programs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Food Chains)

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