Professor Roberta Sonnino
Professor of Environmental Policy and Planning, Director of Impact
I have a distinguished and internationally-recognized track record of research in food geographies. My research focuses in particular on local food systems, public food procurement, urban food governance and food security.
I am the Director of the School's Research Centre for Urban and Regional Food Systems (SURF) and the MSc programme Food, Space and Society. I am also the School's Director of Impact and Engagement.
Education and Qualifications
- PhD in Anthropology (with honours), University of Kansas (2003).
- Laurea in Humanities (Summa Cum Laude), University of Rome, Italy (1994).
- Professor, School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University (2015 -).
- Reader, School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University (2012 - 2015).
- Senior Lecturer, School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University (2010 - 2012).
- Lecturer, School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University (2006 - 2010).
- Research Associate, School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University (2003 - 2006).
Honours and awards
- Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)'s Outstanding Impact Prize (2013).
- Cardiff University's President's Research Scholarships Award on food and sustainable city-regions (2009-2012).
- Fulbright Scholarship to do a PhD in Anthropology (1996-2003).
2014-16 Member of Agrimonde-Terra's International Advisory Committee.
2014-16 Member of the Editorial Board of SAGE's Handbook of Nature.
2013- Member of the ESRC's Research Grant Board.
2011- Member of the Editorial Board of the international journal Sociologia Ruralis.
2011-14 Member of the Soil Association's Catering Mark Standards Committee.
2010-12 Member of the Editorial Board of the Encyclopaedia of Environmental Management (Taylor and Francis, USA).
- 2017 School Meals and the Urban Food Agenda. Public event on “The Transition Towards Healthy and Sustainable School Meals”, organized by the Cooperative Garua. Madrid, June, Casa Encendida. Opening speaker
- 2017 Le dinamiche culturali della governance alimentare urbana. Workshop on “Post-Rural Territories”, University of Venice, Department of Planning, May
- 2016 Milan Urban Food Policy Pact’s Mayors Summit. Rome, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. Keynote speaker
- 2016 Catering for Sustainable Food Security. Sustainable Catering Forum, organized by the Intergovernmental Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). Ghent (Belgium). Opening speaker
- 2016 Food and the City: Understanding the New Urban Foodscapes. University of Innsbruck (Austria), Department of Sociology
- 2015 Urban Food Governance: The Innovations. Newcastle University, School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development
- 2015 Food Access for Poor Urban Households. Expert talks on “Food Access: A Critical Goal to Reach Urban Food Security”. FAO, Rome
- 2015 Signing Ceremony of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact. Milan, Palazzo Reale. Closing keynote speaker
- 2015 Rethinking Food Governance: Urban Innovations. Workshop on The Governance of the Smart Cities Food Agenda. Milan, Expo. Keynote speaker
- 2015 Food Security in an Urbanizing Society. Panel Debate, Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society International Conference, Rome
- 2015 Thinking through Food Justice and Sovereignty: Current Debates and Future Trajectories. Panel Discussion, Royal Geographical Society National Conference, Exeter
- 2015 Indicators for Cities and Regions: Measuring Progress Towards Sustainable Food Systems. International Workshop on Metrics of Sustainable Food Systems: Mapping a Way Forward, organized by Biodiversity International. Resilience Centre, Stockholm
- 2014 Re-Imagining the Future of Our Food: Urban Strategies for Sustainable Food Security. ESRC-sponsored Seminar on the Future of Our Food, Cardiff University. Opening Keynote Speaker
- 2014 Global Food Security: Tracing the Contours of a New Research Agenda. Seminar on Transitions for Global Food Security, organized by the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and the National Centre for Research on Agriculture for Development (CIRAD). Montpellier (France).. Opening Keynote Speaker
- 2014 The New Geography of Food Security: Exploring the Potential of Urban Food Strategies. Critical Issues in Science and Technology Studies International Conference, Graz (Austria). Opening Keynote Speaker
- 2014 Re-thinking Urban-Rural Linkages: Urban Food Policies. EatingCity International Platform, Italian Institute for Agricultural Economics, Rome
- 2014 Local Initiatives for Sustainable Food Security. University of Reading, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
- 2013 Local Sustainable Economic Development: Insights from the Food System. The Negev LSED Euromed Congress, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheva (Israel). Opening keynote speaker
- 2013 Local Sustainable Economic Development: The Power of Public Procurement. The Negev LSED Euromed Congress, Teachers Center, Beer Sheva (Israel)
- 2013 Local Policies for Food Security. The Negev LSED Euromed Congress, Teachers Center, Beer Sheva (Israel)
- 2013 Rethinking Food Security: Local Policy Actions. International workshop on New Urban-Rural Relationships: What Consequences for Agricultural Land Uses and Food Security? Organized by CIRAD, Agrimonde-Terra, Paris (France)
- 2012 Food and Sustainability: The New Urban Strategies. Conference on “Feeding the City is Easy”, organized by Slow Food. Turin (Italy), Salone del Gusto/Terra Madre
- 2012 Rethinking Networks in the Food System: Territorial Innovation in Peri-Urban Areas. Seminar on “Reconnecting Agriculture, Food and Territory: What are the Characteristics of the Innovation Processes?” Organized by UMR Innovation, SupAgro, INRA and CIRAD. Montpellier (France)
- 2012 Le Ricadute sull’Ambiente delle Scelte Alimentari (Food Choices and their Implications for the Environment). Conference on Food Education for Organics, organized by the Region of Lazio and the Italian Ministry for Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, Rome (Italy)
- 2012 Local Foodscapes: Place and Power in the Food System. Nordic Association of Agricultural Scientists Conference. Soro (Denmark). Opening Keynote Speaker
- 2012 Linking Farmers to Local Buyers: Opportunities, Challenges and Successes. World Urban Forum Side Event, UN-Habitat. Speaker and facilitator. Naples (Italy)
- 2012 Up to the Ground and from the Ground Up: Initiatives and Strategies for Sustainable Food Production and Consumption. 1st Multinational Knowledge Brokerage Event on Sustainable Food Consumption, sponsored by the EU (Responder). Lisbon (Portugal). Opening keynote speaker
- 2012 Sustainable Urban Food Strategies: Measuring Progress and Impact. London Food Board’s Executive Group Meeting, City Hall
- 2011 Local Food Policy Actions. Symposium on “Where is UK Food Policy Going?”, organized by City University. London, City University’s Business School
- 2011 Public Policies and the Construction of Markets: Insights from Home-Grown School Feeding Initiatives. Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, International Colloquium on Family Farming. Porto Alegre (Brazil)
- 2011 The School Food Revolution: Public Food and the Challenge of Sustainable Development. Federal University of Parana’. Curitiba, (Brazil)
- 2011 School Feeding, Public Procurement and Sustainability. Technical Seminar on Linking School Feeding with Agricultural Development, organized by the Home Grown School Feeding Unit of the World Food Programme. London
- 2011 Sustainable Public Food Procurement: Redefining Costs and Values. National Conference on University Procurement, St Andrews. Plenary speaker
- 2011 Sustainable Food, Sustainable Cities? Conference on Sustainable Food City: Plymouth, organized by the Soil Association. Plymouth. Opening keynote speaker
- 2011 Building Sustainable Communities: The Role and Potential of Public Food. Workshop on “Measuring the benefits of public procurement”, organized by the Soil Association. Plymouth
- 2010 Local food and sustainable city-regions: The potential of public procurement. Seminar on “The development of a sustainable food supply chain as a factor in the integrated development of urban and rural areas”, organized by the EU’s Committee of the Regions. Inowrocław (Poland)
- 2010 Rethinking Rural-Urban Relations: The New Food Strategies. Workshop on “Towards a Regional Food Plan”, organized by the City of Pisa (Italy)
- 2010 Urban Food Planning and Sustainable City-Regions. University of Reading, Business School
- 2010 New Perspectives on Feeding Children: The School Food Revolution. Food and Behaviour Research Conference, Bristol
- 2010 From Green Procurement to Sustainable Consumption. Final Conference of the IPOPY European Project on Youth and Organic Catering, funded by the EU. Bologna (Italy)
- 2010 The Construcion of “Nested Markets”: The Case of Public Procurement. Seminar on Rural Development Processes and Policies in Brazil, China and the EU. Organised by China Agricultural University, Universidade Federal Do Rio Grande do Sol (Brazil), Wageningen University (the Netherlands) and the Italian Ministry of Agriculture. Rome (Italy)
- 2009 Urban Food Strategies: International Experiences. Conference on Food and the City: Towards a Local Food Policy, organized by the Province of Pisa. Pontedera (Italy)
- 2009 Urban Food and Public Spaces: Planning for Security and Sustainability. AESOP Sustainable Food Planning Conference. Almere (Netherlands). Keynote speaker
- 2009 Multifunctional Agriculture in the UK: The Role of the State and the Public Sector. International Conference and Expert Meeting on “Dynamics and Robustness of Multifunctional Agriculture: Lessons from Abroad”. Beesd (Netherlands)
- 2009 Regions Feeding Cities: Strengthening Urban Rural Links for Food Security and Vibrant Markets. Commission for Sustainable Development 17, Side Event. United Nations, New York City
- 2009 Urban-Rural Linkages for Food Security and Vibrant Markets: The Potential of Public Procurement. Commission for Sustainable Development 17, Partnership Event. United Nations, New York City
- 2009 Short Supply Chains: Local Networks and New Lifestyles. Conference organized by the Province of Ascoli Piceno (Italy)
- 2009 Short Supply Chains, Territoriality and Sustainable Development. Seminar sponsored by INRA (National Institute of Agricultural Research), Paris (France). Keynote Speaker
- 2009 Organic Canteens: International Perspectives. AgroParisTech, Paris (France)
- 2009 Taking the Initiative: Public Food and Sustainable Development. Association for Public Sector Excellence (APSE) Annual Conference. Chester. Plenary Speaker
- 2008 Fair Trade, Governance and Social Justice. Seminar organized by Swansea University
- 2008 Territorial Strategies for Sustainable Food Policies. Wageningen University (Netherlands)
- 2008 The School Food Revolution: Public Food and the Challenge of Sustainable Development. Conference organized by the Baum Forum, Columbia University, New York (USA). Keynote Speaker
- 2008 Home-Grown: The School Feeding Revolution. United Nations, Sustainable Development Commission, New York City
- 2008 Sustainable Public Food Procurement: The Italian Model. International Conference “Organic Food in Catering: Putting Health and Sustainability on the Plate”. Brno (Czech Republic)
- 2007 Appetite for Life: the Vital Ingredients for Success. Conference organized by the Welsh Government, Llandudno
- 2007 Quality Food and Sustainable Development: The Power of the Public Sector. Seminar given at the Finnish Parliament, Helsinki (Finland)
- 2007 Quality Food and Sustainable Development: The Power of the Public Sector. Savonia University of Applied Science, Kuopio (Finland)
- 2007 Sustainable School Meals in Italy: The Roman Model. Soil Association Conference, Glasgow
- 2007 The School Food Revolution: Public Food and Sustainable Development. Community Food Security Coalition National Conference “From Cafeterias to Capitol Hill: Growing Healthy Kids, Farms and Communities”. Opening Keynote Speaker. Baltimore (USA)
- 2007 How is Farm-to School Working for Food Service? Community Food Security Coalition National Conference “From Cafeterias to Capitol Hill: Growing Healthy Kids, Farms and Communities”. Baltimore (USA)
- 2006 The Roman School Food Revolution. Table of the New Crowned Hope Festival organised by Alice Waters and the Chez Panisse Foundation. Vienna (Austria)
- 2006 Qualitá e Sostenibilitá nella Ristorazione Scolastica: Il Modello Italiano in Europa (School Meals, Quality and Sustainability: The Italian Model in Europe). Fiera di Genova, Scuola dei Sapori, Genova (Italy)
- 2006 Quality for All: School Meals in Rome. ASSIST Annual Conference, St. Andrews
- 2006 School Meals: The Roman Revolution. LACA Annual Conference, Birmingham
- 2006 The Power of Place: Embeddedness and Local Food Systems in Italy and the UK. Invited paper for the workshop “Local Food in Europe” organized by the European Science Foundation. Bordeaux (France)
- 2006 The Production of Local and Locality Food in Europe: New Regional Strategies. ESRC-sponsored seminar, Cardiff University. Organizer and discussant
- 2006 Creative Public Procurement: Tapping the Potential of the Public Realm. Seminar on “Relocalising the Economy?” organized by the Alternative Economic Strategy Network, Glasgow
- 2006 Catering for Sustainability: The School Meal Revolution in Italy and the UK. National Conference “Schools and Food: Innovation, Opportunity and Wellness”, City University of New York (USA), March
- 2006 School Meals and Public Food Procurement in Italy and the UK. Seminar on Food Procurement, Columbia University, New York (USA)
- 2005 Delivering Sustainability: The Creative Procurement of School Meals in Italy and the UK. Food for Health, Learning and Livelihoods (F4H) International Meeting, Paris (France)
- 2005 Relocalising the Food Chain: The Role of Creative Public Procurement. Seminar on “Consuming at the Local Level”, Cardiff
- 2005 Agriculture as Usual or a New Agrarian Eco-Economy? Local Food Networks in the South West of England. Symposium international “Territoires et enjeux du developpement regional”, Lyon, France (with T. Marsden)
- 2003 Delivering Sustainability. The Creative Procurement of School Meals in Wales. Sustainable Development Commission Conference, Edinburgh
- 1995 Meeting with Sherman Alexie, Spokane Indian writer, “U. Guanda” Library, Parma (Italy).
- 1995 Meeting with James Welch, Blackfeet Indian writer, Community Library, Parma (Italy)
- 1995 Organization of a seminar series held by Mr. Curly Bear Wagner, Culture Coordinator of the Blackfeet Indian tribe. Rome (National Ethnographic Museum “Luigi Pigorini” and Collegio Nazareno), Parma (VII Circoscrizione, Sala Consiliare) and Padova (University of Padova, Department of Psychology)
- 1995 The Indian and the Otherness. Lelio Basso International Foundation for Human Rights and the Liberation of Peoples, Rome (Italy)
- 1994 Reservation: The Other Dimension of Native American Life. Unione Culturale, Torino (Italy)
- 1994 Native American Identities between Past and Future. Department of Anthropology, University of Rome (Italy)
Committees and reviewing
- 2016-present: Director of Impact and Engagement. School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University
- 2016-present: Member of the School Board. School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University
- 2016-present: Member of the Communication and Marketing Committee. School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University
- 2015-present: Member of the REF Strategy Group. School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University
- 2015-present: Member of Promotions Committee. School of Geography and Panning, Cardiff University
- 2014-16 Chair of the Environment Research Group. School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University
- 2014- present: Member of the PGT Management Team. School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University
- 2014-present: Member of Research Committee. School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University
- 2013- present:Course Director, MSc Programme Food, Space and Society. School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University
- 2013-:present: Director, Research Centre for Sustainable Urban and Regional Food (SURF). School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University
- 2012-13 Chair of Learning and Teaching, School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University
- 2010-15 Member of the Innovation and Engagement Unit, School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University
- 2009-12 Member of the PGR Monitoring Committee
- 2009-12 PhD Admission Tutor, School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University
- 2009-12 Member of Research Committee, School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University
- 2006-09 Second Year Tutor, BSc City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University
I am Course Director for the MSc Programme Food, Space and Society.
Most of my teaching is research-led and takes place at the post-graduate level. Specifically, I am module leader for:
- CPT 906 Food Security and Justice: this module explores the increasing global concern with securing universal access to appropriate food while simultaneously considering other interconnected issues of social justice
- CPT 902 Sustainable Food Systems: this module uses food as a prism to address key critical questions on resource shortfalls, environmental pressures and social development
I also deliver lectures for the modules Geographies of Food Governance, Food Debates and Researching Sustainability. At the undergraduate level, I am involved in the teaching of the first year module Study Skills.
Interests / Areas of Expertise
- Sustainable food systems
- Food security
- Rural-urban linkages
- Urban food geographies
- Local food systems
- Public food procurement
2014-2018: Assessment of the Impact of Drivers of Change on Europe's Food and Nutritional Security(TRANSMANGO). Funded by the European Commission (Collaborative Project) - Principal Investigator
2016-2017: Food in Cities: Innovation for a Sustainable and Healthy Production, Delivery and Consumption of Food in Cities. Funded by the European Commission, Horizon 2020-- External Expert
2011-13: Knowledge Brokerage to Promote Sustainable Food Consumption and Production: Linking Scientists, Policymakers and Civil Society Organizations (FOODLINKS). Funded by the European Commission (Collaborative Project) - Principal Investigator
2010-14: Urban, Peri-Urban and Regional Food Dynamics: Towards an Integrated and Territorial Approach to Food (PUREFOOD). Funded by the EU (Marie Curie Initial Training Network) - Principal Investigator.
2010-12: Forecast for the Future: Scaling Up the Community Food Sector. Funded by the Plunkett Foundation (Making Local Food Work Programme) - Co-investigator.
2007-09: Enhancing the Theoretical Understanding of Rural Development (ETUDE). Funded by the EU (Specific Targeted Research Project) - Co-Investigator.
2005-08: Delivering Sustainability. Towards the Creative Procurement of School Meals. Funded by the ESRC - Co-Investigator.
I have been first supervisor for dissertations on Fair Trade and public procurement in Scotland (by A. Smith, 2008-2011), hospital food in Wales (by S. McWilliam, 2010-2014) and agritourism and rural-urban linkages in India (by R. Madan, 2011-2014). I am currently supervising B. Beynon (working on urban food governance) and C. Van Stavereen (working on food sovereignty).
Policy and Community Engagement
2016 Invited member of FAO/HABITAT III Cross-Cutting Expert Group on "Integrating Food Into Urban Planning". In this capacity, I have actively contributed to position food within The New Urban Agenda
2016 Invited member of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact's Awards Evaluation Committee. This role involved participation in the design of the award criteria, the evaluation of 53 applications submitted by 33 cities, the selection of winning cities and active participation at the award ceremony
2016 Invited expert at the International Forum on Food Security Coordination in the Context of Migration organized by the Aspen Institute in Rome
2016 Invited expert at the International Workshop on Procurement of Eco-Innovation in the Catering Sector organized by the Inter-governemnatl Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) in Turin, Italy
2015 Chair of the public debate on The Future of Our Food: What Needs to be on the Menu? Cardiff University, Sustainability Fortnight, final event
2015 Invited member of the panel on How to Work with Policy Audiences at an International Level. Debate on “Doing Policy Engagement: How to Have an Impact on Policy Debate and Decision Making”. GW4/ESRC event, Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath
2015 Invited speaker on Developing Pathways to Research Impacts. ESRC First Year PhD Conference, Cardiff City Hall, January.
2014-16 Invited member of the French Research Programme Agrimonde-Terra’s International Advisory Committee
2013 Invited expert to a workshop on Sustainable Development of Rural Areas: Defining the Research Priorities, organized by the European Commission's DG Agriculture and Rural Development, Brussels
2013 Invited participant at a researchers-practitioners workshop on urban agriculture, climate change and food security, organized by the Universities of Alberta (Canada) and of Leeds (Geography Department), Leeds, UK
2012 Invited participant to a hearing on sustainable food organized by the European Commission (DG Agriculture and Rural Development), Bruxelles (2012)
2011-14 Invited member of the Soil Association's Catering Mark Standards Committee
2011-12 Invited member of the Steering Committee in charge of drafting the Cardiff Food Charter
2008-09 Advisor to the Scottish Government for the development of a national food policy
2016-17 Implementing Healthy and Sustainable Catering in Scotland’s Public Sector. Funded by the Scottish Government
2012-13 Assessing Sustainability in the Context of Food Security. Funded by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission
2009-10 Developing a National Food and Drink Strategy for Wales. Funded by the Welsh Government
2009 Developing a Food and Regeneration Strategy for the City of Newport. Funded by the Welsh Government, Newport City Council and Newport Unlimited
2007 School Meals for Development: Creating a Virtuous Cycle. Funded by the Gates Foundation and the World Food Programme