What makes urban food policy happen

(Brussels / Stockholm: 12th June) Cities are rising as powerful agents in the world of food, says a new report from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), and they are finding innovative ways to put in place policies that take on challenges in global food systems.

The report, presented today at the EAT Stockholm Food Forum by lead author Corinna Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Food Policy at City University (London), shows that food policy is no longer the domain of national governments alone.

“Cities are taking matters into their own hands to try to fix the food system,” said Hawkes. “Hundreds of cities around the world are taking concerted policy action — whether it be to ensure access to decent, nutritious food for all, to support farm livelihoods or to mitigate climate change.”

The new report, entitled ‘What makes urban food policy happen? Insights from five case studies’, draws lessons from the ways in which five cities around the world have developed urban food policies:

  • Belo Horizonte‘s approach to food security (Brazil) was one of the first integrated food security policies in the world, and the dedicated food agency within city government has survived for over 20 years.
  • The Nairobi Urban Agriculture Promotion and Regulation Act (Kenya) represents a U-turn on long-standing opposition to urban farming from city authorities. The 2015 legislation came on the back of civil society advocacy and a window of opportunity opened by constitutional reform in Kenya.
  • The Amsterdam Approach to Healthy Weight (the Netherlands) requires all city government departments to contribute to addressing the structural causes of childhood obesity through their policies, plans and day-to-day working.
  • The Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Plan (Canada) involved establishment of an innovative governance body to promote collaboration between local governments within a city region, and other organizations with an interest in the food and farming economy.
  • Detroit‘s Urban Agriculture Ordinance (US) required the City of Detroit to negotiate over State-level legislative frameworks so as to have the authority to regulate and support urban farming, a burgeoning activity in the city.

Although these policies were all developed and delivered in very different contexts, the report’s authors identified a number of factors that, time and again, were seen to drive policy forward.

Whether the policies were initiated from the top down or from the bottom up, the cases showed that an inclusive process as the policy moves forward — involving communities, civil society and actors from across the food system — is what matters most, helping to align policies with needs and creating a broad support base to help with implementation.

The examples also showed that even when policies are initially framed around a limited set of priorities, there is much scope for bringing other departments on board and expanding the ambitions along the way.

Identifying the precise policy powers cities can draw on to address the food challenges at hand — and leveraging these powers to the max — also proved crucial in several cases. This meant they could focus resources on areas where change could be achieved most effectively and cheaply.

“The cities we studied were tremendously innovative when it came to harnessing the factors that drive policy forward, and overcoming the barriers,” said Hawkes. “They found ways of extending budgets to enable full implementation of the policy, institutionalizing policies to help them transcend electoral cycles, and even obtaining new powers if they did not have the authority to develop and deliver the policy they wanted.”

“Sharing these experiences is crucial. Looking at what has been done elsewhere can help cities of all sizes — from small towns that are taking their first steps in designing food-related policy, to big cities that are striving to maintain highly-developed, integrated policies — that are working to improve their food systems”.

Read the executive summary

Read the full report

Follow us

We are here to bring the world of ecosocialism to life.

Like Us On Facebook

Facebook Pagelike Widget
What Might An Ecosocialist Society Look Like?
On Sept 19, 2023 ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit in New York City, climate activists gathered for a rally and civil disobedience outside Bank of America Tower in Midtown Manhattan as part of the March to End Fossil Fuels wave of actions resulting in multiple arrests. Activists demand Bank of America to “Defund Climate Chaos and Defend Human Rights” Photo: Erik McGregor (CC BY-NC 2.0 Deed)

Let’s Save Each Other

Let’s Save Each Other

Illustration by Stephanie McMillan. Used with permission