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Transitions towards a sustainable food system and territorial development: new dynamics of innovation in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (LMA)
The increase of economic, social and environmental constraints demonstrates the need and opportunity to transition food systems towards a sustainable model (Sutherland et all.,2014). This has intensified the academic debate around the topic and boosted research focusing on transitions to sustainability regarding food production, processing, distribution and consumption (Spaargaren et al., 2012). This new interdisciplinary research often uses multilevel perspective (MLP) as a conceptual model and orienting framework (Geels, 2014), highlighting the role of local projects and niche innovations in agriculture (i.e., organic farms, alternative food networks and short supply chains) in the structural changes underway. This approach to the transition of food systems requires knowledge of the different spatial dimensions and various temporal scales, emphasizing the relevance of territorial dimensions and challenging the current theorizations on transitions (Hansen et al., 2014). In this context, the present investigation - developed in the research project on Spatial Planning for Change (SPLACH) - focuses on the analysis of the food systems’ transitions in a specific geographical territory: Lisbon Metropolitan Area (LMA). This study aims to understanding both the strategic position of this territory and the key elements that characterize the development of innovation processes, envisaging a transition towards a more sustainable future. The analysis of a number of case studies focused on innovative food projects in value chain (e.g., Quinta do Arneiro, Projecto Muita Fruta, Mercado Bio do Lumiar, Restaurante Quorum, Cantinas das Escolas Básicas dos Olivais) has been carried out. To understand these new formats of production, consumption and governance, in-depth interviews were conducted with key actors, namely entrepreneurs or leaders of the initiatives who take part in the multiple phases of the supply chain (e.g., production, processing, distribution and consumption). The data were analysed and systematized according to the analytical dimensions presented in the literature. The characterization of the initiatives and their stakeholders (for instance, profile and motivation of the promoters, importance of policy measures, networks) explores the potential connections between the availability of crucial resources for the transition process and new organizational forms, social practices and governance. Finally, the research provides a characterization of the LMA in socioeconomic and governance terms (e.g., land use patterns and sociodemographic variations), as well as an identification of the relevant policies involved, which include territorial planning and institutional framework management. This allows a reflection over the changes in economic, social and legal measures affecting the food system’s evolution. By exploring the variations in the top-down processes and bottom-up logic, the present study proposes a discussion around the interactions between communities and their environmental, social, cultural values, which can be valuable for future developments towards a sustainable food system.