Setting out the path to a sustainable future for urban food policy

16 October 2020

Cities are paying more attention to food policy and the farm-to-fork process, and global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and global warming are revealing the vulnerability of our food system 

That’s why it is the perfect time for cities to share insights, knowledge and radical ideas to look at how we interact with our food in an urban setting.  

The Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP) has been the leading community in urban food policy knowledge sharing since 2015. Now, the City of Milan, a Eurocities member, will lead a consortium to scale-up the transformation of food systems with the FOOD TRAILS project.  

The four-year, €12 million project will bring together a consortium of 19 partners to turn this shared knowledge into concrete action. FOOD TRAILS, which kicks off on today on world food day, will enable the shared design of 11 pilot activities in participating cities in order to better co-create urban food policy. The goal is to make the farm-to-fork journey sustainable and to empower communities, promote a zero-waste use of resources, promote environmentally friendly behaviour change and ensure people have healthy and secure diets. These goals tie into the European Union’s FOOD2030 work 

FOOD TRAILS’ 11 partner cities are: 

  • Bergamo (IT)  
  • Birmingham (UK)  
  • Bordeaux (FR)  
  • Copenhagen (DK)  
  • Funchal (PR) 
  • Grenoble (FR)  
  • Groningen (NL)  
  • Milan (IT) 
  • Thessaloniki (GR)  
  • Tirana (AL) 
  • Warsaw (PL) 

Wide-reaching benefits

7.7 million Europeans live in the project’s 11 cities. Alongside these cities a series of prominent universities and European stakeholders complete the partnership: Fondazione Milano Politecnico (IT), Eurocities (BE), Slow Food International (IT), EAT Foundation (NO)Cardiff University (UK), Wageningen Research (NL), Roskilde Universitet (DK) and Cariplo Factory (IT). 

FOOD TRAILS will also bring economic benefits for these cities, including jobs linked to the pilot projects. Reports on the financial instruments in city food innovation ecosystems will ensure the economic sustainability of the projects over time, and the pilot actions will identify any regulatory or administrative barriers that exist to market-based innovation in food systems. 

Based on the analysis of the 256 food practices collected by the MUFPP, the consortium will establish new and sound evidence for policy makers in relation to urban food systems in support of policy development. In four years, FOOD TRAILS will reach 5,000 policymakers around the world with the results of the project, working with local and national authorities as well as international bodies to transform, together, our food systems 

FOOD TRAILS, part of the EU’s Horizon2020 programme, will also lead to the creation of a network of similar pilot projects across Europe, including “Living Labs” in each city enabling change in our food systems.  

Having a consolidated food policy has helped European and international cities to respond quicker to the COVID-19 crisis with food aid systems for vulnerable people, with proximity trading systems and food delivery for families staying at home. FOOD TRAILS will build solid shared knowledge on how to develop even more effective actions, monitor the impacts of actions and strengthen the food policy teams of partner cities.  

“With food policies, cities are improving their public services, from school canteens where we developed more attention to healthy and sustainable diets, to reducing food waste by gathering economic and social actors,” says Anna Scavuzzo, Vice Mayor of Milan in charge of food policy. “With the FOOD TRAILS project we will take these experiences and give them an acceleration, some cities will develop pilot actions that other cities will replicate, with a strong attention to economic sustainability and monitoring of impacts.” 

Track record on food policy

The Milan Urban Food Policy Pact was signed in 2015 by more than 100 cities worldwide. The pact formed the basis for the sharing of knowledge and expertise in food policy with the aim of tackling urban food issues such as creating sustainable food systems and promoting social inclusion through food and food security.  

Some of the activities championed by the pact include a scheme in Birmingham to tackle childhood obesity through community-based health and well-being, an integrated strategy to reduce food losses and waste in Milan and an initiative in Copenhagen to increase the consumption of organic ingredients with training of kitchen staff and procurement restructuring. 

FOOD TRAILS will build on these actions with its diverse set of actions in each of the 11 cities. It is hoped that the pilot projects in the various cities will help identify barriers to the replication of urban food innovations on a Europe-wide level.  

Eurocities members and beyond will have the chance to take part in capacity building workshops as well as paid learning opportunities on the co-creation of innovative food plans.