SLU news

How does food connect to the urban landscape?

Published: 24 June 2019

Food has always had an influence on the urban landscape, beginning at the early markets that cities developed around to today’s meeting places around and with food. It is not only about the food production process, but more about the relationship between food and the city. This and much more was the theme of the seminar “Food and the City” that took place in Alnarp on 24 May.

Ingrid Sarlöv Herlin, professor of landscape planning at the Department of Landscape Architecture, Planning and Management at SLU Alnarp, was the initiator and organizer of the seminar, which was financed with seed funding from SLU Urban Futures. We asked her to tell us some more about the seminar.


What was the seminar about?

Food and eating are great part of our daily lives, and they are closely connected to our everyday environments. Subjects like restaurants and eating out were discussed from a historical perspective and gave us an understanding of how cities have changed in relation to people’s way of eating, both out and at home and in which contexts. Strategies for city food, new ways of working with city planning and creating sustainable innovations around food were also part of the seminar. It also included lectures on seafood, among other things from a sustainable production perspective and how to create meaning and get people to engage in food in different ways. A growing interest in city farming can partly be explained by the reward of having a relationship to the food you eat, which can contribute to sustainability in many ways. At the same time, the urban landscape and its design are characterised by food through meeting areas, how we eat, where we eat and how food is produced and transported. The historical perspective is valuable in sustainability thinking since it helps us understand how our manner of living and values change over time.


Why is it a relevant area for SLU?

In society today, there is high awareness of what we eat and a great interest in food and sustainability. SLU has a great focus on food, both animal products, plant breeding and landscape planning. Which makes it even more interesting to research food in the city and increase research on not just the production process, but on living patterns and cultural food and city aspects; for example, food subscription, home delivery, more single households and other changes that involve altered city conditions. Should you go by car to a large supermarket and do weekly shopping or should there be stores and markets close to living areas? Should new meeting areas be created for urban farming and “reko-ring” deliveries, or other alternative food networks.

What are the main lessons from the seminar?

The seminar gave us a historical perspective of food and its relation to the city, for example Anna Jakobsson’s lecture on the development of owned housing with model gardens which were meant to affect the health and social well-being for young families in the beginning of the 20th century. It is important to look back and forward at the same time to get an understanding of how the city changes through food, culture and living conditions and include these factors in future city planning. We also got a preview of how others work with co-creation forms in different ways in the planning process to create a sustainable planning, where innovations get a more prominent role in handling food and the city. At the same time, we saw some examples on how to engage and inspire citizens through food, both in production and in relation to the city from a local and a global perspective.

How will SLU continue working with the issue?

There are plans for developing a Master’s programme within the area of food and landscape from a cultural perspective. We also want to create a group of researchers and doctoral students working with the theme. We will also continue working with similar seminars, connect to related international networks and act as advisors in different questions. 

Furthermore, the two future platforms, SLU Urban Futures and SLU Future Food have created a coordinator post in the food and city field.


Coordinator Food and the City
Daniel Bergqvist is coordinator for the project Food & City, a collaborative project between SLU Urban Futures and SLU Future Food. Daniel is a reseracher working with urban sustainability and its connection to food and energy systems. One of the main responsabilities for the coodinator is to establish a SLU-internal network of researchers, teachers and students in the area of "food and the city". More information on the project will be published in the autumn. 

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