We are seeing an increasing number of international, national and local attempts to measure and make the case for the positive health, economic and environmental impacts of systems approaches to healthy and sustainable food. With the Sustainable Food Cities Network – and the unique position it holds in this space – the Food Research Collaboration co-hosted a roundtable on the 16th of February 2017 bringing together practitioners from the Sustainable Food Cities Network and academics from universities across the UK. The aim was to collaboratively reflect on evaluating this holistic, place-based and partnership approach to promoting healthy and sustainable food that cities are experimenting with.
The discussions focused on improving, increasing the impact and building on the draft toolbox developed by the Sustainable Food Cities Network and Cardiff University which attempts for the first time to link:
1) key health, economic and environmental goals, outcomes and indicators as outlined by government, local authorities, public health etc, with
2) local sustainable food-related activities and processes happening in towns and cities across the UK, with
3) research evidence and case studies on the efficacy of these actions in contributing to these goals
The ultimate goal being of course to create a robust evidence-base on the value of such systems approaches in promoting healthy and sustainable food.
With the recognition that this is just the start of the journey and that it calls for a much broader project, the potential impact of such a toolbox for a variety of audiences from CSOs to key public stakeholders and funders was evident.
Much still needs to be done to be able to present an unequivocal case for the generalisation of systems approaches to healthy and sustainable food but this toolbox appears to be a step in the right direction and with the feedback from this workshop the next step will be to produce a strong-enough tool for immediate trial and continue to work collaboratively to strengthen the message and make healthy and sustainable food the norm across the UK and beyond.