Food is about far more than calories, vitamins and other nutrients.

Food geography

Spatial, environmental, economic, social and cultural aspects of food production and consumption are in the focus of an academic inquiry more and more often. Food is repeatedly emerging as a hot research topic in many science fields. It comes as no surprise, food is a basic condition to human’s existence. We come into relation with food every day, all of us, without any exception. The aim to understand different aspect of food is thus a relevant concern of several academic disciplines of current applied science. Moreover, food is also inherently geographic.

In the realm of human geography, a new discipline emerged approximately at the beginning of the new millennium – food geography. It studies food in its complexity, as a geographic and societal phenomenon. According to the Dictionary of Human Geography, geography and geographers are at the cutting edge of food studies. This is because geography is more complex and interdisciplinary in its approaches. Food geographers can bridge many barriers and dichotomies such as culture vs. nature, production vs. consumption, urban vs. rural, local vs. global etc. Food can also be studied at all scales from global to the micro spatial level of an individual consumer’s body. Geographers often use food to illustrate other geographical topics – uneven development, geopolitics, commodity chains, international trade, globalization etc. Last, but not least, food geography can, after many decades of rather dualistic approach, unite the topics of physical and human geography.

Besides “traditional” geographic categories (climatic conditions, typical production, agro-food systems) it assesses e.g. the relations between the primary and tertiary sector in socio-economic sphere (employment, large versus small enterprises, role of consumers, rural development, quality of life of small farmers, alternative food networks). It studies the influence of food production on the environment (emissions, forms of transport between the farm and the fork, different production systems, consumption options). It places food at the root of social disparities (food deserts, developed and developing countries, food security, food sovereignty), it understands food as a building stone of public health and quality of life (fast food versus organic food, diabetes epidemic, nutrition extremes). For food geographers, food is also of importance as a cultural object (societal status, religious tradition, folklore, language, everyday practices, community function, identity formation). Food issues are also an inherent part of geographic education (food waste, healthy life style) and it has its place in a curriculum. Food enlivens the teaching process, it is an interdisciplinary keystone connecting many educational areas and topics.

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