Sustainable food systems Nutrition Food practices Urban foodscape Food consumption
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Individual consumption and eating practices, or in other words food-related lifestyles (Grunert, 1993), are a decisive factor of the sustainability of food systems (Tukker & Jansen, 2006). Consumers affect the environment, their own health and social equity to a greater or lesser extent through their level of consumption of goods, for example animal products (McMichael et al., 2007) or processed products ( et al., 2009), and through their choices of products within the different ranges (for example organic or fair trade products). Their domestic purchase practices (eg driving for shopping purposes) or stock management practices (waste) also have an impact on the environment. Similarly, consumers can influence social equity, in particular through solidarity actions such as donations, involvement in associations, fair trade products purchase, etc. (Daniel et al., 2011). While numerous works attempt to measure the environmental and social impacts of the food supply, the effects on the sustainability of individual consumer practices and behaviours are less well known. Furthermore, the determinants of this consumption and these eating habits have yet to be clearly identified (Etiévant et, al. 2010). This information is nevertheless essential if we are to identify the brakes and levers serving to change consumption and the related practices.

It was long believed that in order to change behaviour, consumers had to be educated, informed and made more aware. Knowledge determines attitudes which in turn determine behaviour. This model has now been called into question (Lahlou, 2005; Stø et .al, 2008) and new approaches can be seen in several disciplines incorporating not only the factors which consciously drive individuals, but also the factors subconsciously shaping their practices. Applied in particular to the sphere of sustainable consumption, practices theory” is a new approach to consumption which breaks with the behavioural approaches. Calling on the works of Schatzki (1996) and Reckwitz (2002), this theory was to a large extent formalised by Warde (2005), who emphasised the triple cognitive, social and material dimensions of practices. This recognition echoes the “installations theory” of Lahlou (2008) in the field of psycho-sociology. An installation, or a social and historic construct, “ facilitates, circumscribes and guides the subjects’ actions. It is distributed in physical space in the form of material objects, in mental space in the form of representations and in social space in the form of institutions. It is the prior existence of this installation that enables a subject to react quickly and pertinently to a situation.” Such a theory also echoes social practice theory (Shove et al., 2012) in examining the transition towards sustainable food strategies through changing individual and collective practices which accumulate and spread. Some works show that this accumulation of micro-changes can go so far as to impact on the transition of an urban food system (Cohen & Illieva, 2015).

These approaches exhibit a two-fold advantage in the field of consumption: first, they ensure that the analysis is not restricted solely to the products consumed but also examines the routine, organised or committed methods of shopping, cooking, eating meals, managing stocks and waste, gardening, etc. Second, they ensure that attention is not limited to the economic, sociological and demographic determinants of the individuals as is often the case in consumer surveys, and that the material, economic and social environment in which these practices are observed is also studied (Shove et al., 2012; Dubuisson-Quellier et al., 2013). In the field of food consumption, these approaches mirror research carried out in the fields of geography and urban planning which calls on the concept of “foodscape”. Works have been produced combining land management and the geography of health which examine the impact of the urban environment on people’s health. For example, this school of thought analyses the effect of the proximity of green areas, urban density and the shape and height of buildings on dietary intake and the prevalence of obesity or cardiovascular diseases (Sobal and Wansink, 2007; Townshend and Lake, 2009). The term “foodscape” is most frequently heard as a synonym for the local food environment when studying access to food in its physical, socio-cultural, economic and political aspects (Lake et al., 2010). Glanz et al. (2005) distinguish 4 dimensions of the food environment: community (type and location of food outlets); consumer (availability of healthy options; price, promotion and nutritional information); organisational (home, school and workplace); and informational (media and advertising). The question most often examined is that of the location of food stores (Cummins and Macintyre, 1999; Lee and Lim, 2009) and the price of certain products in relation to the prevalence of obesity (Cummins and Macintyre, 2002) and the forms of food insecurity, with the hypothesis that urban environments have a direct impact on food practices and health (Pulliat, 2013). But in line with the works of Eid et al. (2008) and Plantinga and Bernell (2007), it would be interesting to examine how the environment in which the individuals live can influence eating habits and health. Research in this field is at the interface between urban design, geography and public health/nutrition (see Townshend and Lake 2009 for a literature review).

In nutrition, access to food sources within the built environment seems to exert a powerful influence on diet quality, body weight, and other health outcomes (Laria et al., 2004; Powell et al., 2010; Morland et al., 2002; Moore et al., 2008; Michimi et al., 2010). Inequitable access to healthy foods, in particular, is thought to be one root cause of the obesity epidemic (Ploeg, 2010). As indicated in a recent literature review (Giskes et al., 2011), consistency is higher with regard to associations between the food environment and the body mass index than for those between the environment and eating habits. One literature review (Leal and Chaix, 2011) reports that associations between aspects of the food environment and weight status were documented in 22 of 29 studies published on this issue between 1985 and 2009. These findings are paradoxical as it was expected that more stable associations with the food environment would be observed for an outcome closer to the exposure (dietary intake). While such a paradox cannot be explained in full by the fact that dietary intake is more difficult to measure than weight status, other individual factors, such as food motives and cognitive factors, may interact in these complex relationships.


The aim of this research is to analyse the relationships between the foodscape and the food consumption and eating practices of urban dwellers. More particularly, it is a matter of characterising the configuration of food supply and “domestic space” in residential districts together with the type of catering available in the areas of activity. “Supply” refers to procurement zones (markets, shops) and catering sites. The expression “domestic space” relates to food production areas (balconies with plants, private or shared gardens, etc.) and the configuration of dwellings (kitchen, eating areas, storage areas). To what extent does the configuration of these areas influence consumption, eating habits and their sustainability? Furthermore, our aim is to assess the individual factors (representations, perceptions, etc.) which interact in the relationships between different spaces, consumption and practices with a view to identifying those which consolidate the effects of the foodscape on practices and those which mitigate them. Our project will thus establish a multi-level conceptual framework for the relationships between these different factors. The results of this research will make it possible to answer current scientific questions concerning the effects of gardening, the creation of open-air markets and the continued existence or the disappearance of local food shops on food, as well as questions concerning the effects of different mass catering methods.

Those results will be directly used to incorporate the objectives of improving food into urban policies (urban planning, urban policies, food strategies, etc.). This will be possible by the permanent interactions between researchers and local stakeholders throughout the project (cf. WP6).

Another output of this project will be the development of a methodology that could be applied in other contexts. This methodological step will be very useful to the “sustainable urban food systems” future program led by the Unesco Chair on World Food Systems and financed by the consortium of three foundations: Fondation Daniel et Nina Carasso, Agropolis Fondation and Fondazione Cariplo.

A second, more institutional, objective is to enable researchers from different disciplines focussing on urban eating habits to cooperate on a given issue and to compare their points of view. By them all examining the effect of the environment on eating behaviours, each discipline finds itself on its own specific innovative research front where the progress of others is both useful and rewarding.

This research is conducted by researchers in the field of nutrition and in several social sciences disciplines (sociology, geography, urban planning). It does not call on technical sciences directly (for example agronomy or technology), although its results may be of interest to these disciplines. They can show how it is not only the intrinsic qualities of innovations and their “response” to a demand which ensure their success, but also the way in which these innovations are made available to the users.

Project Number : 1506-013

Year : 2015

Type of funding : AAI

Project type : AAP

Research units in the network : INNOVATION NUTRIPASS TETIS

Start date :
31 May 2016

End date :
15 Sep 2016

Flagship project :

Project leader :
Nicolas Bricas

Project leader's institution :

Project leader's RU :

Budget allocated :
7000 €

Total budget allocated ( including co-financing) :
7000 €

Funding :