Eight webinars to ensure quality and sustainable food for all

4 July 2024

How do we use food procurement to foster sustainable and inclusive cities? How can a municipality support local and quality food production? How can cities finance their food ambitions? And how can they ensure access to healthy and quality food for all?   

Urban food policies are at the forefront of a rapidly urbanising world, shaping how we grow, distribute, and consume food. These policies influence everything from reducing food waste and supporting local farmers to promoting sustainable practices and ensuring quality food for all residents. 

To share good practices and inspire action, Food Trails has launched a series of engaging webinars featuring experts and urban food policy coordinators. These eight episodes offer a unique opportunity to learn, discuss, and contribute to the ongoing dialogue about how our cities can thrive through better food policies. 

A summary of the first four episodes can be found here.

Here are the last four. 

How do we use food procurement to foster more sustainable and inclusive cities? 

Cities have a central role to play in building sustainable food systems. Whether it is by shaping a comprehensive food policy, engaging with stakeholders or setting up an anti-food waste strategy, cities have a lot of action points they can leverage to encourage sustainable food consumption.  

Another tool cities have is public procurement, through which municipalities can ensure access to organic, healthy and sustainable meals in public canteens including schools and other institutions.

When we [municipalities] do something with public procurement, if we put in some sustainable criteria, we can actually move the market in a direction. We have the power to change things,” says Betina Bergmann Madsen, Food Trails Cross-cutting Manager on Climate and Chief Procurement Officer at the City of Copenhagen. 

Public procurement is widely used by cities. However, its potential in shaping sustainable food consumption is often underestimated. When shaped with ambitious and inclusive criteria, food procurement can have a massive impact on producers and consumers.  

Nadia Tonoli, City officer for Bergamo, explains that using food procurement in public school canteens fosters a healthy and local diet for children.  

Bordeaux, in collaboration with a network of other French cities, has pushed more local and organic food consumption, explains Astrid Joubert, Food Governance Project Manager for Bordeaux Métropole. 

How can a city foster local and quality food production? 

What is our food environment? Our current food system is broken, and heavily dependent on global industrial food chains. Local food and short supply chains can reconnect people to their food environment, a healthier diet, and their community. 

“Transforming food systems is not just a task of cities, says Professor Frederike Praasterink from HAS University of Applied Sciences,They [cities] are contingent to imperatives also at the national and international levels. But cities can lead the way and the Food Trails project facilitated and is facilitating collective learning across Europe,” Professor Praasterink adds. 

Shortening supply chains, working with local producers, and providing quality food to residents are keyway to fostering greener, healthier, and more inclusive food systems. 

“There is no proper definition for local or rural – what consists of a local food system and regional food system,” says Professor Praasterink. For her, local food systems and regional food systems are a conter-trend against globalised food systems. 

Léa Ravinet, Sustainable Catering Project Officer at Grenobles-Alpes Metropolitan Area explains that the metropolitan government has been working intensively with farmers around the city to create dialogues on how to foster short food supply chains and bring food to the city. Tirana built the Agro Park, a food centre at the doors of the city, to accommodate best the producers in bringing in and out their products and boost local consumption, explains Fiona Konmi, Head of Epidemiology and Environmental Health Service for the city of Tirana. 

How can cities finance food ambitions? 

Developing cities’ urban food policy ambitions takes time, resources and requires financing. Public money is often scarce and covers many other municipal areas. So how can it be used cleverly? How can cities finance food ambitions beyond public money? 

Some solutions rest in engaging entrepreneurs, accessing national or European funding, or seeking impact investors.  

“Think about the economy in the food policy,” says Thom Achterbosch, Senior Researcher at Wageningen University & Research. “There is a lot of creativity in entrepreneurial arenas when it comes to food. And building those places and locations where entrepreneurs can contribute to food systems transformation is an important way of showing impact,” he concludes. 

Indeed, Andrea Patrucco, Food Trails Project Manager, explains that Milan is developed strong collaborations with entrepreneurs by opening its doors to the startup ecosystem of the city in implementing sustainable food practices. 

Sarah Pullen, Food System Lead for the Birmingham City Council, adds that Birmingham faced a lot of financial challenges over the past few years, but they ended up creating a community of food actors. Also, by working transversally across departments, they managed to extend the funding of their activities. For her, the key to financing food policy is developing strong and trusting relationships. 

Access to healthy and quality food

None of these efforts would be sufficient if access to food is limited to those who can afford good quality. How can cities help in ensuring access to good food for all? 

Shaleen Meelu, Food Trails Cross-cutting Manager on Nutrition in Cities, describes that for cities to have an amazing impact on their residents and to enable them to make healthy and sustainable food choices, they must address every aspect of the food chain. 

For example, Groningen follows a ‘food hub’ approach to ensure that everyone can, in one way or another, interact with initiatives on local, organic and sustainable food. Activities include cooking classes, community-supported agriculture, or farmer markets, explains Hiltje van der Wal, Groningen Policy Officer.

But for Meelu, “In Europe, Northern Europe especially, we need to learn more from our Southern European partners on what eating and community means.” 

Elisa Porreca, Project Officer for Milan, shares that the city promotes meals out of fresh and seasonal products in all the public schools of the city. This allows all children to have healthy meals at school. They have more than 30 different menus that they adapt based on the pupils’ diets, the season, and the producers. 

The Food Trails Midday Munchies 

Cities are not only more aware of their role in creating sustainable food systems, but they are also increasingly taking active roles in improving both food production and consumption for a greener, healthier, and more inclusive future.

The Food Trails Midday Munchies webinar series was designed to share insights and experiences built throughout the project and foster the replication of successful solutions and best practices developed by the participant cities and partners to promote local sustainable food systems. These online talks serve as a platform for exchange between Food Trails, municipalities and stakeholders outside the consortium.  

Want to know more about what your city can do to develop sustainable food initiatives? Watch the previous four webinars. 

#1 – Why develop urban food policies? 

#2 – How to engage citizens and foster behavioural change? 

#3 – Which tools support cities in developing and implementing an urban food policy? 

#4 – How to work on food waste prevention and reduction? 

Read more about it here. 


Marta Buces Eurocities Writer
Lucie Jeandrain Project Officer • Food Trails