01 April 2023
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Food security of cities. International experience and opportunities for Ukrainian cities

Cities are the primary consumers of food that create cultural dietary standards and demands. Cities account for more than 70% of food production.

The need to strengthen food security has been exacerbated by the new challenges of wartime such as interrupted supply chains, the impossibility of cultivating part of the land, increased needs due to the large number of IDPs, rising food prices, the impact of blackouts on producers, etc. That is why the issue of food is increasingly relevant in urban strategies and programmes, while the state, the private sector, and society are taking responsibility for food policy.

Cities must now themselves develop approaches and create agrifood systems that guarantee access to sufficient food resources and prevent food vulnerability both in wartime and in the long term in case of emergencies.

This article will talk about the global experience of urban food planning, the international agreement of mayors on food systems, as well as the main tools and policy decisions employed by the cities to overcome the challenges.


Urban food policy and the international agreement of mayors

Urban food policy covers all decisions affecting how people produce, obtain, consume and dispose of their food. In recent decades, more and more cities around the world are choosing an integrated approach to food system planning that takes into account sustainable development, climate, health, equality and equitable access to resources. The cities implement measures at different levels: cultivation/production, packaging, transportation, processing, distribution, sale, consumption, handling of food waste and recovery of resources.

Through joint efforts, cities made the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP), an international agreement of mayors on the development of sustainable food systems. They must be inclusive, sustainable, safe, diverse and provide healthy and affordable food to the population at all times. A key objective of the Pact is to support and encourage an inter-city exchange of knowledge and experience on food policy and provide specific tools to cities.

Cities build partnerships, learn from colleagues and use the expertise of scientists, international organisations and stakeholders to find an ideal solution for their geographic and socio-economic context. Since 2015, over 620 best urban food practices have been collected in an open database.

Importantly, nutrition is considered here as a starting point for solving certain primary challenges such as the critical climate situation, reducing food waste, preserving biodiversity, managing water resources, better and affordable nutrition for all, fighting non-communicable diseases.

So far, more than 220 cities from all continents have signed the Pact (Ukrainian cities are yet to join them). The framework consists of 37 recommended actions in 6 categories (governance, sustainable diets and nutrition, social and economic equality, food production, food supply and distribution, food waste). Cities joining the Pact can choose to implement all the recommended actions or select only a few, adapting them to their context. There is also a monitoring system with clear indicators and explanations.

What can cities do to influence the food system?

The foreign experience of cities in changes in food policy shows that the most widespread tasks to be solved include:

  • access to healthy food at affordable prices,
  • consumption of seasonal fruits and vegetables,
  • protection of rural and suburban farming and farmlands,
  • reduction of the food supply chain,
  • creating healthy school meals with an emphasis on local produce.

The following groups of tools used by cities can be identified:

  • budget procurement: cities can use their budget to influence the food system (e.g. more healthy food for municipal institutions and educational institutions)
  • spatial planning and land management: cities can promote local food production by allocating land for agriculture and horticulture within or outside the city.

Furthermore, zoning for independent food retailers or farmers’ markets encourages shorter food supply chains and more equitable access to produce. For example, Barcelona implements the CIAP project, a commercial and logistics hub that helps farmers sell organic, local and seasonal produce without any intermediaries through small shops and municipal markets).

  • municipal infrastructure: local self-government can optimise facilities or create new ones that would support short food supply chains (e.g. processing plants, municipal markets, warehouses, etc.).
  • partnerships with businesses: local self-government can support the expansion, restoration and construction of enterprises engaged in the cultivation, production and processing of agricultural products (through the creation of investment sites, preferential tax conditions, support programmes, consultancy, etc.)
  • outreach campaigns to raise awareness and provide training and advice: since cities are home to the majority of people whose daily eating habits have the power to shape food systems locally and globally, outreach campaigns on healthy eating and more sustainable diets, conscious consumption, school meals, food waste management are very important;
  • it is also possible to create educational centres that provide citizens with access to the knowledge and resources necessary for farming or for self-sufficiency or for the purpose of creating their own food business (such as Botildenborg, an urban farm and the multifunctional centre in Malmö, Sweden, where people from the city can train and learn horticulture as well as rent test plots to start their own business).


What is already provided for in Ukrainian legislation and what is the responsibility of cities?

The government adopted its Action Plan to Ensure Food Security under Martial Law. The Plan envisages monitoring the state of food security and agricultural infrastructure as a whole, providing support to food producers, providing targeted assistance to socially vulnerable categories of the population and centralised food price control.

In addition, there are a number of state support programmes (grants for self-employment, gardens and greenhouses, non-refundable aid to small agricultural producers, the State Consumer Service’s Ukrainian Food Security Platform that connects local self-government bodies with suppliers and producers).

However, given their current and anticipated challenges, it is critical that the cities develop their own action plans and measures for responding at the local level. To make it easier for municipalities to create their roadmaps, the experts of the Gardens of Victory initiative have developed a Model Programme for Supporting Food Self-Sufficiency that would provide, depending on the needs and specifics of the municipality, resources and potential risks, effective measures to ensure the food needs of the population and move towards more sustainable food systems.

We aim for sustainable food systems to become an important component of systemic transformations and make our cities more self-sustaining and resilient to global and local challenges and today’s wartime challenges, including food security risks.

We hope that foreign experience and practices from other cities highlighted in the article will be of use to achieve this. If your city or municipality needs advice or has an idea but doesn’t know where to start, send your request to sadyperemohy@gmail.com, and the experts of Gardens of Victory will help you bring your idea to life!


08.02.2023 - 12:22 | Views: 940
Food security of cities. International experience and opportunities for Ukrainian cities


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