Cities need better EU Food Policies

1 March 2024

During the last EU mandate, Eurocities member cities have advocated for a common EU food policy that would recognise the role of and further support local food policies. Many expectations to include urban food policies more strategically at the European level resided in the Commission’s commitment to a Sustainable Food Systems Framework Law.

However, last autumn, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen decided to call for a Strategic Dialogue on the Future of Agriculture and remove the Sustainable Food Systems Framework Law and other linked legislation from the Commission 2024 programme.

Today, Eurocities joined the EU Food Policy Coalition in sending a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen asking her to “call on the next Commission to make the transition to sustainable food systems a high political priority. The next Commission must uphold a holistic food systems approach to policy-making, relying on a multi-DG governance structure, and bring forth the long-awaited proposal for a legislative framework for sustainable food systems.”

The letter also stresses the complexity of food systems and the need for policies to “consider it in its entirety: from production to consumption and involving actors at all levels of governance, including cities.”

Our Food System needs an EU that involves cities

The need for a comprehensive, strategic approach that considers all aspects of the food system is more present than ever. Grounded in the principles of the Eurocities manifesto, cities expect the future European mandate to involve them in prioritising equitable access to affordable and healthy food, driving sustainable food practices, and supporting initiatives that involve all relevant stakeholders in the food system.

The EU Farm to Fork strategy was the first EU policy to rightly highlight the necessity to think and act across the whole food value chain, work in a systemic approach, and involve all system stakeholders to meet the interlinked sustainability, health and social challenges our current food system is faced with. However, with several key pieces of legislation facing strong opposition from certain stakeholders and political groups, and consequently being delayed or withdrawn, the Farm to Fork Strategy has struggled to yield concrete results so far. Yet, the need for action to advance sustainable food systems remains, and it is important that the EU develops a broader framework in direct dialogue with local government leaders to consider cities’ needs, experience and expertise.

For example, local governments need access to financial support and involvement in policy design at the national and EU levels, including the Common Agriculture Policy and other future legislations and initiatives linked with food. The proposal of a Sustainable Food Systems Framework Law remains crucial as it addresses the need for policy coherence so measures taken at the local level are supported, rather than hindered, by strategies at the national or EU level.

Eurocities members driving change

Eurocities and the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP) have connected European cities interested in exchanging ideas and good practices to solve urban food challenges. They advocate for and are committed to developing innovative food policies towards sustainable food systems that leave no one behind.

Through EU-funded projects such as Food Trails and Cleverfood , cities are building a wealth of knowledge on developing and putting systemic approaches to food challenges into action. Eurocities has also contributed to shaping the new European Commission Urban Agenda Food Partnership, marking a step in how cities can lead change at the European level.

Future and appeal to the EU

Eurocities members want to develop equitable, resilient, and inclusive food systems across European cities. They are committed to integrating urban food policy considerations into broader social, economic, and environmental policies and initiatives.

Food crosses many issues, and connections with other EU initiatives should be made. For example, Eurocities will collaborate with the MUFPP, the School Meals Coalition, and the EU Child Guarantee to improve knowledge on school feeding programs for innovative food policies.

Cities continue to work on ensuring access to healthy, sustainable, plant-based, and affordable diets for all, improving food environments to promote healthier choices, minimising food waste, and supporting the circularity of the food system. They aim to strategically use land by supporting short supply chains and urban and peri-urban food production through regenerative agriculture practices.

Eurocities members advocate for a collaborative approach between the EU and cities to address the complexities of our food system. The future EU mandate presents an opportunity to elevate urban food policies. By involving cities in policymaking, the EU can effectively support ambitious food policies, reinforce urban governance, and enhance skills and innovation capacity to tackle urban challenges collectively.


Wilma Dragonetti Eurocities Writer