Urban food logistics and EcoMobility World Festival

Women packaging home-grown vegetables in the streets of Haenggung-dong, Suwon © Anke De Vrieze

A community garden being established on a former derelict area © ICLEI e.V, 2013

Anke De Vrieze presenting the project at EcoMobility 2013 Suwon Congress © ICLEI Korea, 2013

In September 2013 the EcoMobility World Festival took place in Suwon, South Korea. As an endorsing partner of the Festival, I had the honour to participate on behalf of CITIES Foundation. Unique about the Festival was that not only an inspiring Congress with representatives from all over the world was organized, but that also the Haenggung-dong neighbourhood had been transformed into an ecomobile area: for one month cars were banned from its streets, streets were pedestrianized and a whole range of ecomobile vehicles was available for residents to use. While there was a lot of attention for the transport of people during the Congress, my focus was a different one: the transport of food.

Food is an omnipresent element of our lives. Everyday we need to eat and food needs to be produced, processed, packaged and transported before it arrives in our kitchens. These processes have a huge impact on our urban environments. One of the main projects CITIES has been working on in the past three years is “FARMING THE CITY”. FARMING THE CITY raises awareness about the pivotal role of food in our urban societies and shows how food can be used as a tool in urban development. At the EcoMobility 2013 Suwon Congress, we were invited to present FOODLOGICA, our project aimed at making urban food logistics more sustainable by applying ecomobile solutions.

FOODLOGICA conducted a research into the logistics of regionally produced food in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. The results were presented in a video that demonstrates the paradox of Amsterdam’s regional food production: while food is being sourced more locally, the transport actually creates more transport movements and CO2-emissions. With the knowledge and experience gained in this research, we formulated the goal to realize a smart network of clean transport for locally produced food in Amsterdam. We formulated a pilot ‘FOODLOGICA: the New Urban Food Cycle’, a network of electric bikes that transport locally produced food. The bikes bring food from farmers to restaurants and other businesses in the city, but also take back food surpluses and organic waste that can be reused for other uses. By creating as many connections as possible, the FOODLOGICA bike becomes the central point in a system of beneficial relationships among local producers, businesses, the community and consumers.

So what about Suwon? What did I notice while walking the streets of the Haenggung-dong neighbourhood?  First of all, its streets appeared to be filled with food. On several doorsteps, courtyards and rooftops various kinds of vegetables and especially red peppers that are used in the famous Korean dish ‘kimchi’ were being grown. 

But not only individual families grew food. While walking the little alleyways that had recently been paved in relation to the EcoMobility World Festival, we also discovered a community garden. Tucked away between the houses, on what was once a derelict area, a beautiful community garden with neat rows of lettuces, cabbages, peppers and tomatoes had been established. Miss Kyung Kuem Kang gave us a tour of the garden and explained how the project had been developed.

Unfortunately my stay in Suwon was too short to further investigate the supply of food to shops, but building on the tradition of urban food production, the neighborhood seems to provide many opportunities for the support of local food cycles. If the residents of Haenggung-dong decide to stay an ecombile neighborhood after the one-month pilot, it would be interesting to have a closer look at the organization of an ecomobile food supply. This could prove an interesting test case for other cities in the world as well.  

By Anke De Vrieze (Strategist/researcher of CITIES Foundation) 

Visit CITIES Foundation and FOODLOGICA websites for more information