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Shortening the gap from farm to fork

Article-Shortening the gap from farm to fork

Shortening the gap from farm to fork.jpg
Sustainable gastronomy day: exploring the potential for short food supply chains (SFSCs) to foster more sustainable systems.

Sustainable gastronomy refers to foods and cuisine that consider the origin of ingredients, how they are grown, and how they go from farm to fork. Thus, to celebrate sustainable gastronomy day, we look at the role short food supply chains (SFSCs) play in pushing for a more sustainable and circular economy within the agri-food sector, helping to achieve UN’s sustainable development goal 2: ‘End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.’

Researchers from the UK and Poland explore the concept of SFSCs and their potential under the three pillars: environmental, social, and economic. According to research published in Sustainability (DOI:, locally sourced ingredients can boost a region’s social, environmental, and economic systems. Shorter supply chains also allow for enhanced tracking and traceability of products—a rising interest for consumers.

Further, the consumption of locally sourced ingredients increases food security and decreases food waste, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. “The dissemination of SFSCs in recent years can be linked to the preferences of consumers that search for high-quality products. These trends are confirmed by numerous studies, showing that the growing popularity of short supply chains should be attributed to the distribution model based on local and fresh products," researchers highlighted.   

When analysing SFSCs, researchers found four primary topics: products; organizational, institutional, systems; governance; and sales. Within the main topic of ‘products’, researchers identified the following:

  • Branding and labelling—innovations to educate consumers on product characteristics or product lines
  • Valorisation—innovation in products, product lines, or new ways for developing products
  • Value—products’ health values, content, nutritional values, taste, and freshness
  • Values—social, economic, and environmental pillars

They added: “The sustainability aspects here play a significant role in connection with the consumer demand for quality and traceability, alarming health crises in food markets, increasing farm value-added (margin distribution), promoting sustainable farming systems, diversifying production, and contributing to local economic development.” A few of the positive impacts of SFSCs towards sustainable development highlighted include (but are not limited to):

  • Economic impact—increased food production quality, improved European food safety
  • Social impact—an incentive for healthy diets, enhanced trust throughout the value chain
  • Environmental—minimized food waste, reduced GHG emissions and carbon footprints

As the numbers of SFSCs projects are increasing globally, researchers analysed over 100 SFSCs initiatives across Europe. They found: "It is obvious that the main goal of each economic activity on the market is profit-oriented. Nevertheless, the additional economic benefits of SFSCs are, among others, generating local employment (42 case studies), supporting synergies with other sectors (23 case studies), preserving and valorising small farms (20 case studies), reducing economic uncertainties (14 case studies), supporting local initiatives for multiple producers (13 case studies), and training and coaching initiatives (12 case studies). Such supply chains can also be seen as a means to restructure the sector in order to develop sustainable farming methods. The environmental dimension is supported by ecological production methods (57 case studies), and decreasing food miles (31 case studies), less energy use and carbon footprint (27 case studies), less GHG emissions (25 case studies), and reduced food waste (24 case studies). Additionally, there is a very strong side of SFSCs, i.e. the social dimensions, with benefits such as strengthened connections between producers and consumers (69 case studies), increasing trust and sense of community (41 case studies), increasing recognition of producers (25 case studies), and community pride and animation (6 case studies).”

Further, they concluded: “The Short Food Supply Chain (SFSC) is a developing model functioning parallel to conventional food chains. Thus, it becomes an alternative to globalized agri-food networks. Nowadays, an increasing number of entities functioning within short food chains is noticeable. The increase of short supply chains is someway directly related to the growing importance of food quality from both the production and the consumption side. In addition, the benefits of SFSCs support the sustainability concept. In general, short chains meet the societal demand of providing quality food while reducing the environmental impact of agriculture."