The connections and the synergies between social economy and sustainable food systems can be powerful drivers for change and growth in Europe. The Europe 2020 Strategy already highlighted that a resource-efficient Europe would call for an increase in resource efficiency, in order to: “…find new ways to reduce inputs, minimise waste, improve management of resource stocks, change consumption patterns, optimise production processes, management and business methods, and improve logistics.” Currently, EU policies are supporting these ideas, and European farmers and social entrepreneurs are putting many of them into practice.


Sustainable food systems refer to food production, distribution, and consumption practices that are environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and economically viable. Social enterprises play a critical role in contributing to sustainable food systems by addressing various challenges associated with food production, processing, distribution, and consumption. Young social farmers are often involved in sustainable food systems, including farming, gardening, and other food-related activities. Young social farmers are a critical component of sustainable food systems because they bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the field. They are also passionate about environmental sustainability and social justice, which makes them natural advocates for sustainable food systems. Some ways in which social enterprises contribute to sustainable food systems are:


  • Encouraging Sustainable Agriculture: Social enterprises promote sustainable agriculture practices such as regenerative agriculture, organic farming, and agroforestry. These practices help to reduce environmental degradation, preserve soil quality, and promote biodiversity.
  • Reducing Food Waste: Social enterprises help to reduce food waste by using surplus food to make products such as jams, pickles, and chutneys, or by redistributing unsold food to charities or low-income communities.
  • Promoting Local Food Systems: Social enterprises encourage the development of local food systems, which reduce the environmental impact of transportation, support local farmers, and promote food security.
  • Providing Access to Nutritious Food: Social enterprises work to provide access to nutritious food, especially in areas where fresh, healthy food is scarce. They achieve this by developing innovative distribution models, such as mobile markets and food hubs, that provide affordable and healthy food options.
  • Supporting Small-Scale Farmers: Social enterprises support small-scale farmers by providing access to financing, training, and markets. This helps to improve the livelihoods of farmers and promote sustainable farming practices. In this respect, community-supported agriculture (CSA) represents an interesting perspective for local development. Young social farmers may participate in or start a CSA programme, which involves a group of people who support a local farm by buying shares of the farm's produce in advance.


In these respects, social enterprises are important actors in the food system, as they work towards creating a more sustainable, equitable, and resilient food system for all.


Useful links:


DIESIS (2018): How social enterprises contribute to sustainable food systems in Europe (abstract):

DIESIS (2018): How social enterprises contribute to sustainable food systems (full report):