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What is next for urban food policy?

Today, approximately 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas. According to projections, the share of urban population will grow to 68% by 2050. In the meantime, the urban population roughly consumes 80% of all food produced. Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) underlined that though the amount of hungry people in the world has augmented over the past three years, so has the number of people being obese particularly in urban areas. He also highlighted that urban development should not be tackled distinctly from rural development and rural populations should not be considered as the only food producers while urban populations are the food consumers.

At high-level UN meeting with mayors and urban food policy representatives, M. Graziano da Silva called for changing food systems to offer healthy and nutritious food for everyone. He argued that it is imperative to create the circumstances for people living in urban areas to eat fresh and healthy food built on short food supply chains, and on urban and peri-urban cultivation, and to diminish the amount of food that is either lost or wasted. Indeed, guaranteeing the right to food for all citizens, particularly the urban poor, is crucial to progressing sustainable and fair development. This is directly in line with the New Urban Agenda approved at Habitat III in 2016.

The New Urban Agenda sets global standards for sustainable urban development, and helps to reconsider the way we design, manage and live in cities. It is a roadmap for “building cities that can serve as engines of prosperity and centres of cultural and social well-being while protecting the environment”. The Agenda also offers direction for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals and offers the support for actions to tackle climate change. One of the aims of the Agenda is to provide basic services for all citizens, including access to nutritious food.

The main aim of the Framework for the Urban Food Agenda is to guide FAO’s efforts in assisting policymakers at all levels to identify the role of cities as crucial strategic locations and players to address the multifaceted socio-economic and environmental questions that hinder food security and nutrition. There is food security when everyone has access to enough, safe and healthy food that meets their nutritional requirements and preferences allowing them to live dynamic and healthy lives.

An example of good practice is the “Milan Urban Food Policy Pact” which was endorsed on the 15 October 2015 in Milan and presented to the former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon during the World Food Day celebration. It is now recognised by 184 cities worldwide. The “Milan Urban Food Policy Pact” is the first international protocol with the mission to create sustainable food approaches in cities in order to provide access to healthy food to everyone, safeguard biodiversity and diminish food waste. The pact forms a web of cities dedicated to the same cause and helps them exchanging thoughts and propositions on how to concretely tackle shared difficulties. Amid the participants, some have established their specific food strategies and others are now engaged in tackling these matters. For example, in 2018, Ghent (Belgium) won the first price of the Milan Pact Award for a program called “FoodSavers”. It is a platform connecting supply and demand for leftover food in partnership with social organizations and restaurants, food banks, retail and wholesale markets and farms.

Cities can offer innovative and tailored solutions to food security issues and should be given the tools and means to do so. This is even more important in a world where cities will host hundreds of millions of people leading to new challenges.

Author: Dr Fanny Tittel-Mosser

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