Planning for Sustainable Food Secure Cities in China and Canada

Funding generously provided by:

University of Waterloo International Research Partnership Grant

Meet the research team:

Steffanie Scott, Bruce Frayne, Taiyang Zhong, Goretty Dias, Johanna Wandel, Haiying Lin, Huang Xianjin, Yin Yong, Guo Zhongxing, Graeme Lang, Kevin Bo Miao, Zhang Shujie, Zhou Jiehong, Jin Shaosheng, Qiao Yuhui, Wen Tiejun, Kong Xiangzi


It is clear that cities will increasingly play a role in delivering sustainable ways of providing food. But if we understand the need for sustainable urban food systems, why have city planning efforts been so weak on this front? There is a disconnect between the drive for ‘greener’ cities and the importance of food systems in this process - beyond North America - of food system assessments at the urban-regional scale. Instead, assessments have focused on the global or national scale, or on agro-ecosystems, or on resource limitations and environment without factoring in socio-economic dimensions. City-level food system assessments that do exist, mainly within North America, have given little emphasis to integrating ecological dimensions into the more conventional social, economic and political arenas of contemporary urban food systems.

The objective of this project is to ameliorate these gaps by answering the question: to what degree does an integrated socio-ecological food assessment provide different solutions to the ecological sustainability, economic viability, and food security and safety of the food system relative to existing frameworks?

The project will use a case study methodology (1) to conduct an urban-regional food system assessment that integrates social, economic, policy and ecological dimensions; and (2) to evaluate the utility of this integrated assessment framework for planning more resilient and sustainable urban food systems. This research focuses on the city of Nanjing, China, which has extensive local sourcing of food and participation of small-scale actors, but is also integrated into national and global trade networks. Within a context of strong city-, regional- and national-level planning, Nanjing also faces significant environmental challenges that impact the city’s food system, making it a compelling site to conduct our proposed assessment. As one of the first integrated socio-ecological food system assessments to be conducted, and to be applied and evaluated in a rapidly urbanizing society, this project has high potential to have broad impacts across China, Canada, and other nations increasingly concerned about how to plan for sustainable, low carbon urban futures.

Project activities and outputs:

1. China-Canada Sustainable Urban Food Systems Project, 17-19 April, Nanjing University

2. Si, Z., B. Frayne and S. Scott. A Food System Assessment Framework for Chinese Cities. International conference on Migration, Urbanization and Food Security in Cities of the Global South, hosted by the African Food Security Urban Network (AFSUN), the African Centre for Cities (ACC), the International Migration Research Centre (IMRC), Metropolis, the Municipal Development Partnership for Eastern and Southern Africa (MDP-ESA), and the Southern African Migration Project (SAMP), Cape Town (26 November)

3. SSHRC Insight Grant Proposal: Greening urban food system in China: An assessment framework for food policy innovation and strategies for eco-city planning (results pending, PI Steffanie Scott)