Many Community Food Enterprises are searching for opportunities to accelerate the development of their operations and to raise the level of their commercial and technical professionalism. They have technical issues, for which support may be required in areas such as the closing of municipal/regional cycles of compost and organic waste, the production of on-site energy, technicalities related to land use change, food packaging and food safety standards. They also may require clarity on the ambitions of city councils regarding the use of land within their cities, or the possible encroachment upon green spaces that might otherwise be allocated to urban agriculture.
Cities on the Grow seeks to support these enterprises and entrepreneurs to become commercially viable businesses that build climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies into their business models and practices. It builds upon a growing body of research by other EU-projects such as FOODMETRES (http://www.foodmetres.eu), SUPURBFOOD (http://www.supurbfood.eu/), FOODLINKS (http://www.foodlinkscommunity.net), PUREFOOD (http://purefoodnetwork.eu) and URBAN AGRICULTURE EUROPE (http://www.urbanagricultureeurope.la.rwth-aachen.de), all of which have begun to investigate food supply chains and urban and peri-urban food production, and training in the European context.
A systems approach
The Cities on the Grow approach is in-keeping with these earlier projects. It adopts a systems approach to assessing the economic and social value streams of local food systems, as a negotiated product of its associated supply chains and complementarity with wider geographical systems of production. This approach is important as the carbon footprint of any urban, local food system is a cumulative measure of the emissions that have been released during processes undertaken throughout the food cycle – from production through to processing, retail and waste. More importantly, our systems approach is framed according to an ecosystems services perspective. This framing reinforces our dual focus on the economic and social value streams of local food systems, and its climate change mitigation/adaptation potential. In doing so, we can more accurately measure the value of community food enterprises not only in terms of their economic and pro-climate contribution, but also in terms of their wider contribution to society in the form of other services.