Understanding City Region Food Systems

Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit

The Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit commissioned 3Keel to create a synthesis paper on City Region Food Systems, presented as the centerpiece to a high-level meeting on CRFS in February 2015 convened by the Prince of Wales. 3Keel’s analysis focused on framing the challenge of food security, articulating the inherent connections between cities and their surrounding hinterlands, and analyzing the importance of CRFS to food security, public health and sustainable, inclusive development. A summary of the paper was presented by the ISU to a side meeting of the UN Habitat III Prepcom meeting in April 2015.

Underlying the challenges of a more sustainable food system is a disjunction between rural and urban development pathways, even though urban and rural areas remain linked by numerous ecological, social and eco- nomic processes. Rural areas provide not only food, but also water, energy, raw materials, and other ecosystem services to urban areas both local and further afield. Meanwhile, the concentration of people, capital and power in urban centres means that decisions and actions taken there affect rural people and places.

The city region food systems approach has evolved as a response to these challenges, and aims to provide systemic solutions oriented towards both equity and sustainability. It proposes that we should work to strengthen and improve the quality of the connections between urban areas and their rural hinterlands and between consumers and nearby food producers, in order to realise a suite of social, economic and environmental benefits.

While food systems challenges have many global dimensions, a city region food systems approach recognises that these challenges are also bound to specific places, in terms of causes, impacts, and our ability to effect change. It is not, however, a case of unquestioning localism. The ability to source food globally will remain a critical pillar of food security, and local and global markets cannot be seen in isolation from each other. Rather, a city region food system approach is about creating a framework for conscious food governance that fosters improved balance between global and local food supply, with an awareness of the multiple food system outcomes for health, economic development and environmental sustainability.

Project lead

Steve Jennings

It is my hope that given the dominating importance of cities in the global economy, the themes that emerge from this report might also provide a point of reflection for some of the discussions at the Habitat III meeting that is set to be so influential in mapping routes toward developing resilient cities and therefore economies. At the very least, in the face of some of the significant and increasing challenges associated with food, energy and water insecurity, I hope that this report will also help highlight the need to take account of the deep and enduring relationships that have historically existed between urban areas and their surrounding rural lands.

Justin Mundy
Director, The Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit


Food in an Urbanised World – Executive Summary

Food in an Urbanised World – Full Version