Accessing Healthy Food Environments

Jeff Risom is designing cities for people.
Jeff Risom is a urban planner and the Chief Innovation Officer at Gehl. The combination of engineering and social science has made him passionate about the relationship between human experience and design. Photo: Linus Sundahl-Djerf

In the seventh episode of the Faces of Food podcast, we meet Jeff Risom, an American engineer and social scientist focussing on healthy food environments for the Copenhagen-based architecture firm Gehl.

As Chief Innovation Officer at Gehl, Jeff works at the intersection of all the things we share in cities – from parks and streets to food systems – and the way we experience them. He delivers projects that are economically viable and socially equitable, as well as sustainable in terms of using energy, land and time.

Urban Food Environments

“I have always been fascinated by the differences in people.”

Jeff had a mixed childhood, growing up on well-fair in a relatively poor area of Colorado, as well as having a wealthy family in New York.

‘Bringing the planetary health diet to life will not happen without dedicated efforts in the urban context.” Jeff Risom took part in a panel discussion at EAT Stockholm Food Forum 2019. Photo: Linus Sundahl-Djerf

“From a very early age, I had a switch from being the poor white kid in a Hispanic neighborhood to needing to be a preppy ‘yachter’ in the East Coast”.

The exposure turned Jeff on to the idea of studying social science, and “how we are social animals and have this collective understanding of our environments and our surroundings.”

Designing ‘Cities for People’

Through Gehl, Jeff is working with EAT, C40, and the City of Copenhagen to integrate the latest food system science into urban design.

“We are essentially taking this amazing EAT-Lancet report that is filled with a very different way to consume food and then say how do we design cities and communities that invites to this sort of behavioral change,” says Jeff during the podcast interview.

The multidisciplinary work and systems-approach and have encouraged him to think outside the box.

In this episode of the Faces of Food, Jeff shares his dream project of opening up school kitchens and schoolyards to create spaces for people to come together, learn, cook and exchange experiences.

The podcast is available on AppleSpotifyCastboxOvercast.

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