Knowledge for better food systems

Understanding the food system: Why it matters for food policy

This briefing paper from the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London examines what the food system is, how it can be defined, and why those definitions matter to the development of food policy.

The paper outlines some ways in which the food system can be defined, including:

  • A linear food supply chain
  • A set of outcomes (such as nutrition, health and food security) and drivers (such as incomes, technology and soil health)
  • An interconnected system with many dimensions, including economics, politics, environment, health and society.

The way in which the food system is understood is important to policymakers, the paper argues. For example, there are many places in the food system where interventions can be made, and actions in one part (e.g. regulations on salt content) may have unintended consequences in other areas (such as government lobbying by food companies). By understanding the food system and its different dimensions, the paper argues, policymakers can design interventions that solve several problems at once.

Read the full report, Rethinking Food Policy: A Fresh Approach to Policy and Practice - Brief 2: Understanding the food system: Why it matters for food policy, here (PDF link). See the previous report in the series: Brief 1: Tackling food systems challenges: the role of food policy. See also the Foodsource building block What are food systems?

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Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering just over 10 million square kilometres or 6.8% of the global land area, but it is the third-most populous continent after Asia and Africa, with a population of around 740 million people or about 11% of the world's population. Its climate is heavily affected by warm Atlantic currents that temper winters and summers on much of the continent. In the European Union, farmers represent only 4.7% of the working population, yet manage nearly half of its land area.

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