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Young researchers meet the challenges of urban food supply

There is a pressing need to respond to the challenges of increasing urban food-related health and environmental problems. An EU-funded initiative has trained young researchers to advance a better understanding of the nature of (peri-) urban foodscapes and their impact on sustainable development.
Young researchers meet the challenges of urban food supply
With a rapidly changing food supply system and shifts in the roles of food producers and consumers as well as relevant regulations, more information is needed on the dynamics of these changes. This knowledge can help foster the development of sustainable food systems.

The project PUREFOOD (Urban, peri-urban and regional food dynamics: Toward an integrated and territorial approach to food) provided a 3-year training programme for 10 female and 2 male early-stage researchers (ESRs). The course covered new fields of sustainable food supply chains, public sector procurement and urban food strategies. The overall approach targeted an impact on theory and practice through knowledge exchange and direct implementation between companies, non-governmental organisations, public authorities, academic experts and ESRs from developed and developing countries.

The ESRs attended all training courses on offer as well as additional training and coordination activities organised in conjunction with FOODLINKS. The programme incorporated a learning-by-doing approach that was coordinated by communities of practice centred on PUREFOOD's three themes.

The young researchers followed individual career development plans and submitted research proposals that will ultimately lead to a PhD. The 12 researchers have produced articles (some scientific and some popular), and over the course of the project supervised students, gave guest lectures and participated in conferences as moderators.

All ESRs completed at least one secondment at an institute other than their host to broaden their knowledge and expertise in preparation for entering the job market. The project's Brazilian partner organised an international two-day workshop in December 2013, which was attended by over 150 scholars, practitioners and policymakers from around the world. The event was live streamed on the internet.

The project's final conference took place in the Netherlands in May 2014. This was held in cooperation with the conference 'Day of Urban Farming', which opened up PUREFOOD issues to a larger and broader audience covering the market (businesses), public sector (governments) and civil society.

The programme has already had a positive effect on the young researchers' career prospects. Beyond that, project work and outcomes are slated to benefit European policies and to improve the field overall.

Related information

Keywords

Urban, food supply, urban foodscapes, sustainable development, food strategies
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