"A chance to promote resilient and decentralized food systems"

Covid-19 has highlighted the vulnerability of our global food systems to provide safe, affordable and nutritious foods. Many concerns have been raised by stakeholders in the food supply chain on the lack of resilience in the Swedish food system. However, it is difficult to grasp the long-term effects that this pandemic will have, Michael Martin, senior researcher Sustainable Consumption and Production writes.

Michael Martin

A sector that both suffers and thrives

For urban environments, with rich and diverse food culture, this has resulted in disrupted supply chains and markets. However, while some food sector stakeholders may suffer from reduced sales, others may thrive. The foodservice industry has seen dramatic decreases in sales, also affecting its suppliers. Regional specialized suppliers have witnessed dramatic declines in demand, as their market outlets are being disrupted. At the other end of the spectrum, demand for home-delivered groceries and box-schemes have increased dramatically due to the new market outlets provided by online systems. Some regional suppliers, such as urban, local and organic farmers, have also gained beneficial outlets for their products through these online marketplaces, which have often competed with cheaper imported alternatives. Local producers in the Stockholm region, like Urban Oasis, Svegro and Grönska have added online marketplaces to their market channels through MatHem.se.

A chance to promote and improve resilience

As with other suggestions on using this crisis as a chance to shift toward more sustainable practices, this could be a chance to promote and improve more resilient Swedish food systems and highlight the importance of decentralized regional food systems.There are now many initiatives to support local producers and the foodservice industry, reflecting changing consumption practices and interests. Many suppliers are turning to online marketplaces and home delivery services for their products with great success. Some restaurants and retailers have also started selling products from their local suppliers to extend their support to promote Swedish products. Coop has a Gårdsbutik online to support local farmers. Many cities also have giftcards to support local companies. And as seen before the criris, REKO rings continue to be an important outlet for local producers to sell and distribute their products.

The world we promote today is the one we will have after the pandemic

Consumers have continued supporting regional producers and retailers through their purchases, take-away orders, by purchasing gift cards and other events.The #essentialfarmer project is one example from the US, which bridges many of the aforementioned examples to support regional food systems.

Above all, it is essential to provide support for those food stakeholders we wish to endure the pandemic, as the world we promote today is the one we will have after the pandemic. This can provide an opportunity to reflect upon and expanding the conversation around sustainable food systems, especially for urban environments, on many levels.

Contact: Michael Martin, michael.martin@ivl.se, tel. 010-788 66 81

Read more about Michael Martins' research:

Stadsodling för resilienta och hållbar livsmedelsproduktion i urban miljö

Offentlig upphandling för hållbar livsmedelskonsumtion


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