Policy papers

Cities – cooking up sustainable food systems

15 October 2021

Food and food production might once have been considered beyond the scope of city authorities, but with 75% of Europeans now choosing to live in an urban environment, what cities do matters. In fact, according to a new position paper from Eurocities, city administrations should be regarded as central to managing and transforming food systems and ensuring that good quality food is accessible to everyone.

Good quality food

When food policy is managed strategically, cities can use it to address different urban challenges at the same time. For example, it can help secure new jobs while also lessening our impact on the planet.

However, this ability has been stretched during the Covid19 pandemic, and cities are working on ways to build more resilience into their systems.

“Cities played a vital role throughout the pandemic, by delivering food aid and supporting retailers to ensure people had access to healthy food, which is the right of everyone,” says Anja De Cunto, Policy Advisor on Food at Eurocities. “The pandemic has also made us acutely aware of the interrelations between our health ecosystems, supply chains, consumptions patterns, planetary boundaries, and the need for ambitious and coordinated responses,” she adds.

Cities around Europe are picking up these challenges, and seeking solutions that they co-create with local partners, such as:

  • By making use of their power of purchases, cities can decide to buy more local, seasonal, or biological food – leading to better public health and sustainability of food systems.
  • Through urban planning, they can promote areas of land in and around the city for food production and community growing projects; make local food markets more accessible by foot or public transport, or map the town to find areas of food desert/swamps to take steps to rectify the situation.
  • By collaborating with many local partners, social enterprises and civil society groups to ensure food policies match up with other goals, such as environmental objectives.

More on this here

EU can learn from cities

Demonstrating what cities can and already do, such as bring together different partners to lead innovation in the food system, is part of the argument made by Eurocities for why city administrations should be involved in EU policy developments related to food, like the Farm to Fork strategy.

Another is that cities across Europe are not only developing food strategies but are showing far-reaching commitment to more fair and sustainable food systems through initiatives like the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, a coalition of more than 200 cities dedicated to developing sustainable food systems, and are sharing innovations that are ready to be scaled up to the EU level.

With this in mind, the paper calls for greater coordination between all levels of government “which supports the co-creation of national food policies to move beyond the Common Agricultural Policy national strategic plans.” This would include:

  • Learn from the experience of cities in establishing participative policy-making, to create a policy tool that would bring more actors together to design EU food policy.
  • An EU policy strategy to integrate different policy areas across levels of government.
  • New ways to highlight urban and regional food policies at the EU level, in order to inform better policy.

Read the full paper here