Book Review: Bosso, C. (Ed.). (2017). Feeding cities: Improving local food access, security, and resilience, Routledge, New York, ISBN:978-1-138-64725-1, 196 pages | 27 B/W Illus.
Reviewed by: Roxana Maria Triboi, “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urban planning, Bucharest, Romania
Food scandals, increasing urbanization, the mounting evidence of environmental impact from intensive agricultural practices, and other factors in the last two decades have shifted the discussion on food from urgency and hunger in the Global South toward questions of ethics, sustainability and resilience in the Global North. How these considerations of the crisis of “modern” food and agricultural systems have commutated from global to local concerns and interventions (e.g. the shift from increased productivity to ‘community resilience’) is of central concern for Christopher Bosso in his book “Feeding the cities: Ethical and Policy Issues in Urban Food Systems”. This publication is based on the results of a workshop at the Northeastern University of Boston. This volume gathers cutting-edge papers on topics related to food system vulnerabilities, challenges and best practices from different perspectives: social, ecological, political and ethical in the United States exclusively, approaching some aspects of present-day food safety and food security concerns over global food system practices.
The efficiency, specialization and standardization of the North American food and agricultural system (Neff et al., 2015) are of particular interest here. This is mainly because of the considerable impact that US policies have on other food systems worldwide, generating food crises independent of the availability of local resources. This recognition is a widely disseminated debate, and the growing awareness of its structural problems and responses justify the contribution of this volume to the general reflections on building a more accessible, resilient, sustainable, and most of all “just” food system focused mostly at the local scale. Altogether, Bosso argues that American bottom-up reactions to these global challenges are problematic. Whereby the concepts of “just sustainability” and “just food” emerge as principle points of contention in this publication.
Structured in three large sections, this book exposes a wide cross-disciplinary inquiry on a wide range of reflections and experiences related to food. The first section on “Ensuring Food Security” considers some core aspects of the harsh reality of the rising insecurity of the US food system, from the legal aspects of food security (as a human right), food deserts and fast-food densification to farmers’ markets and attempts to improve national programs of food access, despite the official and classical view of this system as a global leader. The second section, entitled “Building Local Food System Sustainability”, examines the initiatives and reflections on improving local food systems’ support of economic livelihoods and the health of community members, particularly considering the commercialization, globalization and farm policies of the US food supply system. In the last part of this book on “Ensuring Food System Resilience”, Bosso meditates broadly between the resilience of local systems and shocks or disruptions to global food systems. The integration of the concept and practice of “emergency food” into urban policymaking is scrutinized.
Systemic problems like the poor access to nutritional and affordable food, the health issues related to food, along with connecting local and national food politics and programs surface beside the noticeable impact on the increasing food insecure population. This volume speaks to these and many of the other long-debated concerns with our current global food systems, highlighting the continuing disconnect between consumers (especially from marginal categories as low-income or ethnic minorities), grassroots responses and the global spread of the US food system. The evidence that many “alternative” food programs are dependent on public funding underlines this disconnect, which Bosso and others have sought to address. That is, despite recent progress in furthering our knowledge of the complex infrastructure spanning both local and global food distribution networks, our ability to properly manage them remains limited.
Above all, the topics and the contexts exposed in this volume are relevant for mainstream discussions on food albeit the volume is somewhat unbalanced in its presentation of these contributions. Also, the disciplinary backgrounds of the contributors to this volume and the differences in their perspectives result in a collection that is incoherent in places. This may be attributed to its inception on the back of a workshop. Nevertheless, this volume maintains the importance of current efforts to rebuild communities as a solid base for the local empowerment of consumers. It contributes to a growing appreciation of the hybrid nature of what may constitute as sustainable food systems, which remains nascent with important steps still to be made in this direction. Overall, this book provides valuable insights into US food system struggles that not only reflect global food system tendencies and problems but also have a major impact at the local level in any corner of the world.
Neff, R. A., Merrigan, K. and Wallinga, D.(2015). A food systems approach to healthy food and agricultural policy, Health Affairs.
Roxana is a Romanian urban planner with more of 10 years experience in urban and landscape planning in Romania and France, a PhD student since 2013 on urban pastoralism in Romania at “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urban Planning Bucharest, as well as a member of research groups (AESOP Sustainable Food Planning , RGS-IBG Food Geographies Working Group and Alternative food supply networks in Central and Eastern Europe group), Roxana Triboi approached the territorial problematic of food-city relationship in various projects through all her professional experience.