33 Reasons For Regional Food Systems

Wayne Roberts compiled the benefits of a food revolution

Wayne Roberts, Canadian food policy analyst, writer and former manager of the Toronto Food Policy Council (TFPC) compiled 33 reasons for what he calls "complementary regionalism".


On one hand he refers to the report Food in an Urbanized World by the International Sustainability Unit identifing 16 benefits of reorganizing food production. On the other hand he added 17 more reasons to endorse a revolution towards a more humane and sustainable food system:




  • Organizing food production and supply around “foodsheds” and regions ensures a range of grains, produce, meat and dairy products are always available and accessible
  • Increased livelihood resilience for small-scale and mid-sized producers
  • Reduced food costs for urban consumers, when full costs taken into account
  • Increased resilience of overall food supply against shocks caused by international financial speculation
  • Increased access to culturally-appropriate world foods that can be produced in the region in collaboration with sponsoring community groups
  • Improved communication between producers and eaters, fostering increased food literacy and transparency  



  • Territorial and regional organization of a wide variety of foods for local markets optimizes opportunities to imbed multi-functionalism into the food system, thereby creating more opportunities for adding value through culture enlightenment, heritage preservation, and so on – the core magnets of a rich cultural, culinary, environmental and education-based tourism industry
  • Increased variety of rural jobs, including artisanal and other value-adding activities, thereby stemming youthful depopulation in countryside areas
  • Increased vitality, entrepreneurship and innovation as a result of increased options for business organization (co-ops, social enterprises. B corps, and so on), increased options for funding alternative employment (such as prepaid CSA memberships and Indiegogo), and increased discovery of complementary opportunities, as a result of ongoing direct relationships between producers and consumers
  • Increased income and employment in rural and urban areas as a result of multiplier effect of purchases within a more circular economy with many forward and backward linkages (farmer gets a haircut, barber goes to restaurant, restaurant buys from farmer, and so on)
  • Increased jobs in cities resulting from the fact that locally grown food much more likely to be locally processed, packaged, warehoused and delivered, perhaps through regional hubs
  • Increased creative employment in creative industries developing new  small batch technologies for mid-scale farmers, processors and retailers
  • Increased employment from local purchase of alternative (non fossil fuel-based) materials sourced from farms, as farmers expand production beyond food, to include energy, fiber, fabric, cosmetics, supplements and medicines  



  • Opportunities for ‘circular economies’, waste reduction and lifecycle resource management, including return of high-quality composted food waste and returnable/reusable food and beverage containers
  • Increased local agroecological diversity, including world crops and heritage crops
  • Increased recognition and valuing of ecosystem services and farm-produced environmental goods and services, often supported with fees for environmental services financed through carbon credits and other ways by beneficiaries throughout the region
  • Lower greenhouse gas emissions from reduced transportation, food and packaging waste, and increased carbon storage from new perennial and forest growth
  • Local abattoirs, which greatly reduce unnecessary transportation of animals and animal cruelty associated with such travel
  • Higher valuation of and support for countryside- and farm-produced aesthetic and scenic values which increase eco-tourism and “staycation” possibilities, attracting both international tourists and nearby residents
  • Increased city and countryside partnerships to promote pollinator habitat, essential to future food security
  • Increased city and countryside partnerships to use “working landscape” to manage and improve air quality, flood control, water filtration
  • Increased initiatives to foster agriculture with a “regenerative agenda” that can actively reduce harm done by previous practices
  • Increased public appreciation for value of food-producing land reinforces planning efforts to encourage smart high-density growth and prevent low-density sprawl onto precious farmland   



  • Increased knowledge about food and nutrition amongst urban dwellers, resulting in more healthy diets
  • Increased availability of, and access to, nutritious food
  • Increased food literacy resulting from deepened relationships between food producers and consumers
  • Reduced need for harmful food additives designed to increase shelf life during longhaul transportation
  • Greater opportunities for Netherlands-style care farms supporting health of vulnerable people



  • Promoting a food culture
  • Integrated (‘joined-up’) policy and action
  • Greater participation in and transparency of food system from increased opportunities to facilitate deep democracy, deliberative democracy and direct democracy
  • Development of new organizations (such as food councils or commissions) which enhance region-wide food citizenship, governance and collaboration
  • Increased opportunities to build in region-wide synergies and mutual benefits that are not apparent when each entity is oriented to a faraway market

IWE Berlin, 14.02.2016



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