related issues

Food issues dropped on city’s plates

  • cooperation

Gone are the days when food production was not an urban concern. Cities are looking beyond their limits, developing food strategies to reduce waste and carbon emissions, and to save money on food.

Recently, Milan created cooperation across departments and got stakeholders directly involved: approximately 1,000 voices, from universities to ordinary citizens, came together and produced 100 concrete plans for action on food. Research revealed that every year Milanese families waste enough food to feed themselves for an entire month. They also found that on a national level more than one-fifth of emissions were caused by food production. In response, programmes were implemented to raise awareness among citizens, as well as to increase reliance on locally-produced food, so meals clock up fewer sky-miles before landing on citizens’ plates.

Too many cooks in the kitchen

But despite the political will, too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil a strategy: Different levels of government are often pursuing divergent, even contradictory food strategies, and the same holds true for different departments, as it can be unclear which competencies lie with whom. Another missing ingredient is a clear link between research, practice and policy, so that those making the decisions do not have access to the relevant data, even where such data exists and ought to be available. Meanwhile citizens’ associations, and other local voices are not sufficiently included.

In Gothenburg, the municipality has established a leading role in food-strategy development, allowing the city’s food policy and social and business agenda to cooperate creatively, rather than clash. For example, a new project for the integration of foreigners through farming, in which young and skilled migrants are given care of abandoned farms. This project facilitates knowledge and social exchange, increases employment, and encourages local food production.

Ingredients for success

Urban administrations, when sufficiently empowered, can tailor unique and lasting food solutions. They turn the tables by embracing community-led, rather than top-down strategies. Engaging local actors encourages innovative approaches based on a deeper understanding of the issues. Another strength of urban areas is ‘translocalism’, inter-city knowledge sharing. Turin, through Barcelona-led URBACT Markets, has been inspired to regenerate its urban markets, shortening the food-supply chain and stimulating the local economy. 

Research conducted by EUROCITIES found that those EU-funded projects which succeeded in their goals were 

  • created in consultation with city authorities;
  • flexible when it came to adapting to new circumstances; 
  • and included opportunities for vital knowledge-sharing activities.

We will use the results of this research to showcase the added value of cities working on food system.

Click here for an overview of findings based on input provided by the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP), their signatory cities and EUROCITIES members through an open survey, interviews, desk research and focus group meetings. More than 40 cities from Europe and nine cities from across the globe participated in the study.

EUROCITIES staff contact

Anja Katalin De Cunto