Despite the recent uptake of innovative production systems, food systems continue to move on unsustainable trajectories. This can be explained by many sustainability interventions addressing solely more obvious but less powerful areas of intervention rather than engaging with the root causes of unsustainability. Instead, FOODLEVERS focuses on identifying those leverage points at which interventions promise far more potential to further develop and scale-up existing innovative organic and sustainable food systems (FSs) (referring to products, technologies and marketing practices). It aims to promote higher resource-efficiency, highlight inefficiencies, specify the reasons for decision-making processes that led to the current configuration of FSs, and thus identify configurations that “work” and may be scaled up.

» WHAT are we aiming for? identify “deep” leverage points to further develop and scale up organic and sustainable food systems

» WHY are we doing it? there is a clear need for transition from the current linear food systems to more circular systems since food systems continue to move on unsustainable trajectories

» HOW do we want to achieve it? contrary to the common practice of sustainability interventions, FOODLEVERS addresses the key problems underlying unsustainability by applying a system’s approach and by learning from innovation through the analysis of several European case studies of innovative organic and sustainable food systems and the identification of best practice processes from multiple perspectives of resource efficiency: environment, economy, social and governance.

» WHERE are we doing it? Belgium, Finland, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, United Kingdom


Expected results

This project explores how organic and sustainable food systems with long and short distribution chains contribute to reconnecting producers and consumers, more efficient resource use from farm to fork and the economic, environmental, social and governance dimensions of the system’s sustainability.

At all levels in the food system insights are created in sustainability, i.e. the actors’ role and potential barriers and drivers specific to the studied systems. Farmers learn about their farm’s overall sustainability and the role of distribution channels. Analysis of different value chains and scenario building leads to recommendations for farmers and chain actors to organise innovations that minimise trade-offs between stages from production to waste recycling and identify new value chains. Involvement of and communication to consumers raises awareness about sustainable food choices. Food chain actors and policy makers are informed about impacts of scaling up sustainable food systems at various scales.

As a result, the project will identify critical points in the innovative organic FSs studied including barriers, levers and points for intervention. The modelling of scenarios will allow to understand the potential of micro-level changes to achieve system-level change and transition towards sustainable and resilient FSs. Finally, “deep” leverage points will be formulated to re-connect, re-structure and re-think FSs.

Keywords: Agroforestry | organic farming | trade-offs | system approach | leverage points