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  • Food purchase is an agriculture act!

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    Urban garden in Mouans-Sartoux (FR) - Photo by François Jégou

    An article by BioCanteen’s Lead Expert, François Jégou.

    Urban garden in Mouans-Sartoux (FR).

    Photo by François Jégou

    "These collective gardens grow vegetables and fruit, but above all they produce socialisation between the inhabitants of the neighbourhood", says Rob Hopkins during a visit to one of the Citizen Feeds the City‘s six gardens, a project that was conceptualised by the MEAD - Sustainable Food Education Centre and set up by the local residents of Mouans-Sartoux (FR).


    What the famous creator of the Transition Towns movement nicely calls as "patchwork farming" offers the potential to feed a few families in the neighbourhood, but as the URBACT Network Sustainable Food in Urban Communities has clearly shown, it actually represents an important symbolic vector for local gatherings and the transformation of the inhabitants' food practices.






    As an echo, at the opening of the "Mouans-Sartoux Food Forum - A Table!" the city’s Deputy Mayor in charge of Children, Education and Food, Gilles Pérole, shared with participants the first results of a carbon impact evaluation that was carried out at local level. Over the period between 2016 and 2022, this study was conducted under Andrea Lulovicovà's thesis at the University of Cote d'Azur and with financed from ADEME. According to the evaluation, while food represents a yearly average of 2 tons of carbon per person in France, it is only about 1.17 tons in the city of Mouans-Sartoux. The average diet of the locals has an impact of 43% of carbon emissions, when compared to the national average. In addition, the number of inhabitants eating less meat has increased to 85% in less than 10 years.


    Considering that the food sector roughly represents 1/3 of the greenhouse gas emissions in our European lifestyles, Mouans-Sartoux's food policy achievements become even more impressive. These results are also proof that when it comes to changes “the carrot and the stick approach" is not always the best solution – take for instance the Netherlands, where meat advertisements are banned. The "Mouans-Sartoux approach" is a bearing fruit, as it builds instead in the long-term awareness and education for a sustainable transition.

    A Table ! Mouans-Sartoux Food Forum - Photo by François Jégou

    Photo by François Jégou

    Group discussion during the A Table ! Mouans-Sartoux Food Forum.


    The city's "permanent public activism" is proving its effectiveness with the Citizen feeds the city urban gardens, but above all, it has proven its worth with the 100% organic and almost exclusively local canteen where 1 000 primary school children eat every day – being half of the meals strictly vegetarian. Also, the influence of "zero food waste" on families, the municipal farm located 700 meters away from the town centre that supplies the school kitchens, the three municipal agents-farmers who harvest 25 tons of vegetables per year and the municipality's support for the installation of young organic producers on communal land are among other successful measures.


    At last, the municipality has also succeeded to create the MEAD - Sustainable Food Education Centre: the city true public food service. The centre is politically committed to fair trade and it supports the Positive Food Families Challenge As Valery Bousiges, a parent from a primary school student, who we met at the start of the first URBACT BioCanteens Network in 2018, summed it up: "The question is not when is something happening about food in Mouans-Sartoux, but what is happening today. We are being asked every day!".


    The “A Table !" Mouans-Sartoux Food Forum” brought together more than 150 stakeholders from 10 countries – including 50 local authorities, more than 20 NGOs and official structures involved in the food transition – on the occasion of the closing of the URBACT BioCanteens #2 Network from September 26 to 28, 2022. The title of the event was spot on:  how can we bring the transition issues related to food back to the table and to the citizen’s attention?


    According to François Collard-Dutilleul, from the Lascaux Centre on Transitions, food sovereignty – which was the central theme of the Forum – means reclaiming the ability to choose what we put on our plates. This goes far beyond the oversimplified idea of food autonomy, which is so often put forward after the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.


    As Andrea Lulovicovà, who now works with the Greniers d'Abondance, and Chantal Clément, from IPES FOOD, remind us, the food transition rests on three critical pillars: the agricultural transition, the relocation of food and the transformation of food practices. It is not enough to produce organic and local food if we do not change the way we eat. The example of Mouans-Sartoux and all the other towns in food transition tick all three boxes. 


    Bio Sceptics card game

    Bio Sceptics card game

    Card game called ORGANIC SKEPTIC: We all have a good reason to distrust organic certification The cards are spread over the table, with a myth busting messages

    Bio Sceptics


    In his book “L'Homnivore”, Claude Fischler, explains that through the mechanism of “food embodiment”, we become what we eat. This applies both physically and symbolically, hence an increased resistance to any diet changes. Unless our lives depend on it, like they once did for the first humans, dietary changes can threaten one’s identity altogether.


    We have seen such a resistance about organic food in all partner cities from the BioCanteens #1 and #2 Networks: "organic food is not reliable, not useful, not healthy, not sustainable, not...". To acknowledge that it’s scientifically proven that organic is better for your health and for the planet, it means to become aware of the fact that the conventionally grown food that most of us eat every day is poisoning – not just for us, but also for the world.


    To explore the hidden psychology behind organic food, the BioCanteens team has developed the "Bio Sceptic" card game, which gathers the scepticism clichés heard from farmers, traders, consumers, municipal services and others. The game provides the knowledge and arguments of field actors, toxicology and certification experts to reduce any misconception towards organic certification.


    Organic certification is essential for the food transition, human health and societal resilience. It is not without its problems and it can certainly be improved. Playing with stakeholders in the territory, the game consists of finding all the argument-cards responding to each mistrust-card. Thus, discussing them, opening the debate, targeting the main controversies, defusing some misunderstandings or irrational fears and, most importantly, highlighting some concrete problems that still need to be solved.


    Participants of the A table ! Food Forum in Mouans-Sartoux (FR) playing the Bio Sceptics card game - Photo: François Jégou

    Photo: François Jégou

    Participants of the A table ! Food Forum in Mouans-Sartoux (FR) playing the Bio Sceptics card game.



    But what are all these cities in food transition doing and how can we support their movement at national and European level? During the second part of the Mouans-Sartoux Food Forum, participants were asked these questions in the marketplace booths, where an open-air market was set up to promote exchange and provide some food for thought.


    In these booths participants were invited to discover the journey from cities in transition, particularly the BioCanteens #1 and #2 partner cities: Gavà (ES), LAG Pays des Condruses (BE), Liège (BE), Rosignano Marittimo (IT), Torres Vedras (PT), Trikala (EL), Troyan (BG), Vaslui (RO) and Wroclaw (PL). These partners have adapted and transferred Mouans-Sartoux’s Good Practices in different ways.


    During this process the cities have also gathered their own local Micro-Good Practices when cooking and in terms of food education in the canteens. In the booths, interested visitors could also check the BioCanteens toolbox, which is composed of a projective exercise on the Food Sovereignty of each city and the future of its food-producing land by 2040, in addition to a simulation game to create a Municipal Food Platform, a poster outlining a Multi-Level Food Governance Plan and the Bio Sceptics card game.

    Market place at the A Table! Food Forum in Mouans-Sartoux (FR) - Photos: François Jégou

    Photos: François Jégou

    Market place at the A Table! Food Forum in Mouans-Sartoux (FR).

    In one particular booth, participants were asked to consider what actions should be taken to amplify this movement of cities that are committed to food. Among the suggestions that were collected, innovative trends emerge. Examples include the recognition for cities of a food competence, of a role as active producers of the food system and not only as organisers, the use of pre-emption rights as a resort for municipalities to acquire agricultural land and the consolidation of the status of public agent farmers.  See a snapshot of the ideas below:




    The suggestions have been clustered in five categories: - Local civil servants - Funding - Regulations - Land - Networks

    At the European level, the suggestions that were collected point to the same direction: it is fundamental to create a direct link between Europe and the cities that are capable of rebuilding a high-quality local agricultural fabric. Especially in terms of direct funding for public agricultural production, as for example the potential creation of "urban leader" or "inter-rural urban leader" projects.




    The suggestions have been clustered in four categories: - Funding of the project - Public markets - Territories - Networks




    The last part of the Forum reflected upon a key question: what about the food exception? “We cannot buy food for community canteens like we buy pens”, says Gilles Pérole. “The free circulation of goods guaranteed by the European Market Code goes against the re-territorialisation of food and support for local agricultural transition. We need an exception to this European Code for food markets".


    This hypothesis was already raised in early 2021, notably on the occasion of the BioCanteens #1 Network’s Final Event – “COP26 is already today, join the movement of European cities committed to democracy and food sovereignty”. Fast-forward to today this debate is still subject to controversy. Among the different voices that were heard during the Forum, Fabrice Riem, lawyer and Coordinator of the Lascaux Centre on Transitions, presented an interesting take on how to operationalise exceptions, without breaking the rules.


    While Davide Arcadipane, from the city of Liège, described the process of dividing public tenders into multiple lots – in order to facilitate the access of school canteens to supplies coming from small local producers – Fabrice Riem pointed out how this process, which is now commonplace, represents a way to bend the Public Procurement Code without undermining it. That being said, splitting tenders into 300 to 400 lots, as practiced by the city of Dijon (FR), requires a HR capacity that small cities do not have at their disposal and, therefore, a first distinction has to be made in terms of the size of the different cities.


    Still according to Fabrice Riem, "the relocation of food must not become localism, clientelism or favouritism. The European Market Code is a protection to which it is perhaps dangerous to make an exception, and also perhaps unnecessary”. If cities want to “express their purchasing power to bring about a local food system”, to use Kevin Morgan Cardiff University’s scholar own words, it would be possible to do so using current rural laws and seizing existing competencies from municipalities. At least in France, this is the way to ensure territorial anchoring, to design a call for tenders for food supply that requires a contribution to the construction of the local food system and that, ultimately, are in line with a Territorial Food Plan.


    The applicant would then need to reply to questions in their bid like: when you supply this canteen, how do you contribute to the construction of the local food ecosystem? This is still a potential scenario, which should still deserves further work and that still respects the Public Procurement Code. Riem’s legal terms translated the systemic nature of food and it echoed the position that was taken by other speakers during the Forum.


    For example, Léa Sturton, from the MEAD, explained how Mouans-Sartoux asks its suppliers to describe the logistical routes and transportation system in an appendix to their offer. Benoît Bitteau, Member of the European Parliament, explained that when subsidies are paid to small agroecological farms, they do not discredit the value of their food production but, on the contrary, they rather constitute the remuneration for their secondary work of caring for natural areas and preserving biodiversity.


    All these ideas represented, in a practical and operational way, the principles that are outlined by of Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food movement: consuming food is much more than just eating, it is an agricultural act. Likewise, producing and buying food is not simply supplying the city's canteens, it means building a coherent local territorial food system.





    Interested on the topic of food? Check out URBACT's Knowledge Hub.
    Would you like to join an URBACT Action Planning Network on this topic? Share your project idea in the Partner Search Tool!

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    Rethinking Agri-food production in small and medium-sized European cities is the aim of this Action Planning network. Agri-food production is a mature industry that continues to play an important role in terms of GDP, employment and environmental sustainability. That is why new growth potentials must be activated by means of innovation, new business models and strategies. Our vision is to place cities at the core of a growing global movement that recognizes the current complexity of food systems and the links between rural cities and nearby cities as a way to ensure regional development.

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  • A Table! Mouans-Sartoux Food Forum

    BioCanteens#2 A Table event



    The objective is to gather and create a common diaglogue between the European local authorities around the topic of food sovreignity and democracy. Cities are a major actor in the development and construction of sustainable food policies and their commitment is already a day-to-day reality with concrete actions that are beneficial for the climate, the environment and the health of people. This is why we believe it is essential that their voices are heard and that their experiences inspire European policies.  


    In addition to visits to present the Mouans Sartoux food project, we are planning numerous debates, exchanges and workshops on the following three key topics:


    • Building a European food sovereignty the protects people’s health and the planet

    • 100 % organic school canteens across the EU: it is achievable!

    • Let's mobilise! Let's join forces to make the voice of local and regional authorities in Europe heard


    Find more information about the forum here.



    • Organic
    • Sustainability
    • Urban food systems

    As final event of BioCanteens#2 Transfer Network, the city of Mouans-Sartoux is organising the first edition of the Mouans-Sartoux Food Forum << A Table!>>. 

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    • Food
    Open to a wider public
  • Cities nurturing local food systems to fight climate change

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    The way we produce, distribute, transform, consume food has a huge impact on GHG emissions. How can local governments intervene?

    Climate adaptation

    To tackle the climate emergency, we must urgently transform the conventional ways we produce, transport, eat and dispose of food worldwide. Cities are crucial drivers for this cultural, social and economic change: their residents consume 70% of the world’s food, and the policies they design and implement impact millions of people. URBACT cities and networks have understood this and are seeking to make their own contribution to the global challenge.

    At the recent 7th Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP) Global Forum in Barcelona, a team from URBACT, including the Spanish National URBACT Point, showcased examples of EU cities already making real, positive change.

    Focusing on the topic of ‘Growing Resilience: Sustainable Food to Tackle the Climate Emergency,’ this event was an opportunity to (re)connect, exchange experiences, challenges, knowledge, and best practices, to inspire and get inspired with the shared goal of fixing urban food systems, while addressing the climate emergency.

    In the URBACT-led session on ‘Integrated local food ecosystems to tackle climate change: URBACT’s lessons and actions’, diverse towns and cities presented their achievements in designing local food: Mollet Del Vallès (ES), partner in the URBACT networks Diet for a Green Planet and Agri-Urban; Mouans-Sartoux (FR) partner in Agri-Urban, BioCanteens #1 and #2; Milan (IT), labelled URBACT Good Practice and lead city in NEXT AGRI; and Nourish Scotland, co-coordinator of the Glasgow Food Declaration, together with IPES-Food.


    The Milan Urban Food Policy Pact

    The Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, launched at the initiative of the City of Milan, at the Milan Expo 2015, has now been signed by more than 200 cities. It is an international protocol aimed at tackling food-related issues at the urban level, to be adopted by as many world cities as possible. By signing this agreement, cities not only declare their commitment, but also benefit from practical guidance including 37 recommended actions – in the areas of Governance, Sustainable Diets and Nutrition, Social and economic Equity, Food Production, Food Supply and Distribution, and Food waste. Each recommended action has specific indicators to monitor progress in implementing the Pact. The Milan Pact Awards promote examples of successful food policies that cities are implementing in all six Pact categories.

    Each year now (except for 2020 because of the pandemic), a global forum organised in a signatory city is a chance for cities to exchange knowledge, build partnerships and celebrate progress in implementing improved food policies through the Milan Pact Awards. Dialogue and technical exchange among signatories are enriched by the participation of relevant international organisations and institutions.


    Food on the menu

    Soil erosion © Europan seed

    Current food systems have strong negative impacts on climate. Production, distribution, loss and waste of food account for around 30% of global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. This in turn leads to biodiversity loss, extinction of species, deforestation, soil erosion, freshwater scarcity… At the same time, climate impacts all affect food systems: for producers affected by the lack of predictability of yields and food prices, incomes are increasingly volatile.

    The distribution chain is becoming less and less reliable with strong concerns about city autonomy. All these affect rural areas’ survival. And problems have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Socio-economic and health inequalities are booming, with threats to food quality and food safety, with malnutrition as a key risk factor for hunger and disease.


    An integrated food ecosystems approach

    An ecosystem approach is key to ensuring that food provides access to healthy diets and nutrition for all, agroecology and regenerative agriculture, circular economy and the provisioning of just livelihoods. Such an approach involves understanding the range of stakeholders and complexity of their interactions; it is a crucial framework to identify, analyse and address synergies and trade-offs between various climate change responses.

    Food systems © IPES-FOOD

    Integration is another key competent of any transformation toward a sustainable local food system, and is vital in tackling multiple challenges such as technical gaps, behavioural changes and market failures. Integration is also embedded in the URBACT method, as follows:

    • Transversality: food is linked to agriculture, trade and industry, health, labour, environment, international cooperation… All these should be taken into consideration simultaneously when improving food systems.
    • Multi-actor: relevant departments from cities, regions and states covering the above-mentioned policies need to work together, as well as with stakeholders from the private, civil society and academic sectors.
    • Multi-level governance mechanisms: innovations take place at the local and regional levels. They should be supported and incentivised by international and national governments.
    • Territoriality: food ecosystems should be linked to each other with a strong focus on urban and peri-urban linkages. Rural areas should be further interconnected with cities of different sizes.
    • Infrastructure and social innovation: combining investments in tools, products, building with experimentation and people involvement and interaction is crucial to ensure a smooth transition of all to a sustainable food system.


    Several entry points for a local integrated ecosystem

    Many URBACT cities are frontrunners, inspiring others to act locally for more sustainable food systems. Their actions also provide insights into various possible entry points for cities to start developing their own sustainable local food ecosystem. For example:

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  • Food for thought in URBACT cities: the broad effects of eating local

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    How can improving local food kick-start the systemic transition of a city and its surrounding territory?


    Food is a hot topic for cities and stimulates a lot of citizen initiatives in urban contexts: street vegetable boxes, community orchards, public garden-planting, window gardening, etc. But despite the growing enthusiasm among residents of saturated cities to grow their own food, the quantity of food produced by these initiatives remains limited... The core interest lies in their symbolic value and potential to spark change: (re-)engaging populations disengaged from food, building cities’ food sovereignty, strengthening local resilience and, in return, fostering improvements in city governance.

    Food has been a core topic of multiple URBACT networks over the years. Recent examples among URBACT III Transfer Networks include: BeePathNet, disseminating Ljubljana’s (SI) urban bee system; BioCanteens, building on Mouans-Sartoux’s (FR) 100% local and organic school canteens; and RU:RBAN, sharing Rome’s (IT) methods for supporting community gardens. All shared their experiences in a ‘Food storytelling battle’ at the June 2021 URBACT Festival.

    What are the important transfer outcomes for partner cities engaged in these food-related URBACT networks? How can food issues kick-start the systemic transition of a city and its surrounding territory? How is this consensual and appealing topic of food in the city fostering the transformation of city governance? URBACT Expert François Jégou investigates.

    Engaging whole cities with food

    Modern cities developed around cars, and disconnected from food, as Carolyn Steel’s famous book Hungry City, How Food Shapes Our Lives, made clear in 2008. She and others, including AESOP, the Association of European Schools of Planning, make the case for sustainable food planning, involving diverse people, from planners, policy-makers, politicians and health professionals, to local farmers, food businesses and associations. The first outcome of these URBACT Transfer Networks is certainly to raise city residents’ awareness of local food production and consumption.

    © City of Krakow

    “One of the steps that can be taken is implementing school gardens in each school.”
    Katarzyna Przyjemska, Krakow (PL)

    BeePathNet’s coordinator Maruška Markovčič explains: “The most important thing that Ljubljana did was to put the bees and other pollinators at the beginning of the food chain and created the whole system of preservation, education and awareness raising. We introduced the late mowing to the public green areas to upgrade biodiversity in living spaces for pollinators. We encourage people to plant ‘melliferous’ plants and create green roofs all over the city.” The city’s services and residents feel more closely linked with nature and food cycles – and are proud to play an active role.

    Katarzyna Przyjemska from Krakow (PL) states how the urban gardening focus of the RU:RBAN Transfer Network is key for inhabitants of cities to reclaim food issues. “The future of the earth is in our children’s hands. I guess nowadays no one doubts the truth of that statement, but how can we do that, since children are becoming more and more distant from nature? One of the steps that can be taken is implementing school gardens in each school. Having that kind of green classroom, we can enable them to observe nature every day and moreover take part in it. This personal commitment will pay off in a real intense connection with nature.”

    Healthy and sustainable food is a popular topic in cities. Enjoyed by all and affecting everyone, food constitutes an easy, tangible entry point to engage citizens in broader local transition. City partners in the BioCanteens network took a food-systems approach. They saw how improving primary school canteens not only highlights the benefits of providing healthy, high-quality food to young children – influencing families’ food habits  – but also leads to knock-on effects in a broad range of connected areas. BioCanteens questioned ‘who feeds Mouans-Sartoux?’, investigating agricultural resources with organic certification in the surrounding area. They looked at land preservation in urban planning and opportunities for developing a local farming economy.

    This was a step towards the recent signature of the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration, “A commitment by subnational governments to tackle the climate emergency through integrated food policies and a call on national governments to act”.

    Building food sovereignty

    The recent challenges of globalisation seem to be confirming cities more and more clearly as the right level to act and initiate change, as for instance stressed in 2016 by the European Commission and UN-Habitat report ‘The State of European Cities, Cities leading the way to a better future’. In food, as in other areas, cities are taking measures to boost their sovereignty.

    © City of Mouans-Sartoux

    “Focusing primary school canteens reaches out to the children’s families, influencing their food habits.”
    Thibaud Lalanne, Mouans-Sartoux, (FR)

    As Thibaud Lalanne, BioCanteens network coordinator, illustrates, relatively small cities such as Mouans-Sartoux (population 9 500) and its network partners acknowledge they can innovate and solve many of their own problems by themselves. “In 2008, when the elected representative of Mouans-Sartoux decided to switch to the 100% of organic local school canteens they faced a major issue: there were actually no local organic producers. We were able to put out a call for tender because we had a production gap in our province. In 2010, the elected representatives of the city, almost as a joke said, ‘well if no one applies, well actually we will produce food by ourselves’. Which led to the creation of this municipal farm. This is how the story begun and we actually celebrated the 10th year of this municipal farm.”

    Tiago Ferreira from Amarante (PT), one of the transfer cities in BeePathNet, listed seven reasons why beekeeping has been a key topic for his city’s empowerment: “Promoting beekeeping is at the same time promoting the economy and promoting sustainability […]. It is an economic activity where workers feel fulfilled and contribute to make happier cities […]. Good beekeepers could be people with or without remarkable academic backgrounds […]. It could be an extra earning source for people that have other jobs […]. Honey and other beehive products can be transformed into added value products […]. They generate touristic routes and experiences that can attract new customers […] and a friendly territory for bees will make you gain benefits on some agricultural productions.”

    “Beekeeping is extra earning source for beekeepers, economic activity and touristic development for the city.”
    Tiago Ferreira, Amarante (PT)
    © City of Amarante

    BioCanteens cities made the most of their URBACT connections to raise their Final Event to the European level, stating that for some advanced cities the “COP26 is already happening” and inviting other cities to “Join the Movement of European Cities Engaged for Food Democracy and Sovereignty”. The cooperation continues with a session on “Integrated local food systems to tackle climate change: URBACT’s lessons and actions” organised by URBACT on 19 October 2021 at the Barcelona 7th global forum of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact.

    Strengthening city resilience

    Based on their experiences, cities in BioCanteens, BeePathNet and RU:RBAN, say that strengthening local food systems results in a direct increase in local food resilience.

    © City of Troyan

    “The municipal farm, the first of its kind in Bulgaria, is a tool to supply canteens, to create jobs and to educate the children.”
    Teresa Georgey, Troyan (BG)

    From Troyan (BG), a city partner in BioCanteens that created its own municipal farm during the project, Teresa Georgey explains: “Although Troyan is situated in a rural and mountainous area with much less pressure on land than Mouans-Sartoux, we decided to do the same because we were also facing a lack of organic producers to supply our school canteens. The municipal farm, the first of its kind in Bulgaria, is a tool to supply canteens, to create jobs and to educate the children who can visit the municipal farm, as well as to educate the elected representatives, because they can see what a city can do to feed its own population and can start thinking in broader terms.”

    The Covid crisis has revealed marked differences in the ability of cities to maintain high-quality food supplies for their most deprived residents by supporting local food production.

    © City of Rome

    “The strong sense of belonging each gardener had and the strong sense of community in community gardens.”
    Silvia Cioli, Ad’hoc expert RU:RBAN network

    Silvia Cioli, ad hoc Expert for the RU:RBAN network, stressed how urban gardens played a key role in supporting inhabitants during the pandemic, both reducing food poverty and strengthening mental health. After meeting a photographer observing Ortonorte gardeners in the north of Rome, she recalls: He was impressed by the community in the urban garden on how differences disappeared among all the people that were going there (social, gender, generation, etc.) and also the strong sense of belonging of each gardener, and the strong sense of the community in times characterised by isolation […].”

    This is a story that tells us about urban gardens as not only a place where people grow food but […] they really bring people back to nature, reconnecting them through food.”

    To find out more about URBACT capitalisation activities, visit the URBACT Food Knowledge Hub. Listen to the Interreg ‘This is Europe’ podcast on ‘Feeding Our Future Generations’, featuring URBACT and Mouans-Sartoux. And sign the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration!


    This article is part of URBACT’s series exploring latest challenges in sustainable urban development, based on discussions with cities and experts at the 2021 URBACT City Festival. Topics range from community participation in urban renewal and gender in public procurement, to cities tackling climate change. View highlights of the 2021 URBACT City Festival.


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    • Wroclaw - Poland


    • Kick-off meeting
    • A Table ! Mouans-Sartoux Food Forum

    What's new

    News & Events

    BioCanteens#2 Transfer Network is about ensuring the distribution of sustainable school meals in participating cities as a key lever towards the development of an integrated local agri-food approach, protecting both citizens’ health and the environment. The project aims to transfer Mouans- Sartoux’s Good Practice in the field of collective school catering, to other highly committed cities across Europe.

    Education - Food - Environment - Local Economy - Governance
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  • Five great ideas for greener cities

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    These local green solutions are inspiring cities across the EU. Could they work in your city too?


    The New Leipzig Charter highlights three forms of the transformative city which can be harnessed in Europe to enhance people’s quality of life: the Just City, the Green City and the Productive City.

    URBACT’s latest publication is packed with sustainable solutions to address these three dimensions – all tried, tested and transferred between EU cities, with adaptations for each local context.

    To give a taste of the full stories in ‘Good practice transfer: Why not in my City?’, here are five examples of local actions for Green Cities. We hope towns and cities of all sizes will be inspired to ‘Understand, Adapt and Re-use’ these participative, joined-up solutions, helping to drive a just transition to a green economy.

    1. Reward re-use and recycling

    The Zugló district of Budapest, Hungary, launched a reward scheme with the city’s waste company to encourage recycling – and slow growth in household waste. After an initial survey of local needs and attitudes, they built an online platform linking citizens with various ‘green points’ where they can drop off recyclable and reusable items, earning coupons for goods and services provided by local sponsors. Schools and other organisations – including Budapest zoo – are joining in with activities to promote the circular economy. This approach originates in the Spanish town of Santiago de Compostela (ES), which motivated people from its so-called TropaVerde ‘rewarding recycling!’ initiative – including web developers – to transfer the good practice to their peers in other EU cities with support from URBACT.

    2. Bring in the bees

    A new ‘Bee Path’ guides visitors round local sites linked to bees and honey in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz. The sweet solution was developed by a group of beekeepers, teachers, entrepreneurs, researchers, tour guides and interested locals. Together, they identified 16 places in their city with apiaries and melliferous potential, from a university roof to the botanical garden. Bydgoszcz is one of six EU cities to enrich its urban jungle with bees, adopting Ljubljana’s (Slovenia) tried-and-tested ‘Bee Path’ as part of an URBACT Transfer Network. With education, tourism, biodiversity and business all benefiting, visible changes already include new bee-friendly flower gardens, city-wide World Bee Day celebrations, and the promotion of local honey.

    3. Link up art and culture with climate activism

    A movement of green cultural events and a commitment to reducing carbon emissions, is growing in the UNESCO-listed town of Mantua, Italy, thanks to new synergies between the cultural sector and climate activism. As partners in the URBACT C-Change network, Mantua picked up its approach from the Manchester Arts Sustainability Team (UK), which was formed in 2011 to explore how the arts and culture sector could contribute to the city's first climate change strategy. Mantua’s cross-sectoral scheme has sparked improvements ranging from re-usable cups to bio-gas buses, contributing to a new ‘plastic-free’ city strategy, environmental criteria in the city’s UNESCO management plan, and green public procurement for cultural events.

    4. Create a municipal farm to supply local canteens 

    With an ambitious sustainable food policy, the Bulgarian town of Troyan decided to build a municipal farm from scratch, and use the produce in school meals. After two years learning from Mouans-Sartoux’s (FR) pioneering ‘Collective school catering’ work as partners in the URBACT BioCanteens network, Troyan’s farm has already started supplying organic fruit and vegetables. To achieve this, the town learnt new public procurement techniques and took a step-by-step approach, initially aiming to provide half of the vegetables required in local canteens, then expand production later. And the process was supported by an URBACT Local Group, involving heads of schools and kindergartens, civil servants and parents.

    5. Grow urban gardens together with communities

    Vilnius, (LT) is promoting urban gardening as a way to fight social exclusion and gather neighbours, even in high-rise ‘sleeping districts’. Working with local stakeholders and the Ministry of Environment, Vilnius developed a clear set of regulations for communities to know how – and where – to start an urban garden. The municipality also released an urban gardening guide as part of a broader environmental awareness drive – and has formally included the shared gardens model in the city’s urban development policies. Their inspiration? Rome (IT), whose resilient urban gardening project targets more than 50 hectares, involving NGOs, citizens, disadvantaged people and minorities. Thanks to the URBACT RU:RBAN network, shared gardens in Vilnius have already started to grow – and dialogue continues with private and state owners to free up access to land for more community gardens in the future.

    Read about these and many more sustainable solutions for cities, in URBACT’s latest publication ‘Good practice transfer: Why not in my City?’, with positive opening words from Elisa Ferreira, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms.

    Tagged with the three city dimensions of the New Leipzig Charter, our easy-to-search Good Practice database also provides more inspiration for greener cities.

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  • Urban Sustainable Food systems – join URBACT’s movement towards COP26!

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    Food will be a key thematic topic for URBACT in 2021 – Programme Expert Marcelline Bonneau tells us what to expect.

    Climate adaptation

    2021 is a ‘food year’ for URBACT: promoting food democracy and food sovereignty at the initiative of URBACT good practice city Mouans-Sartoux (FR) and the URBACT Transfer Network BioCanteens that it has led (with partner cities in Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Romania).

    URBACT will be supporting regular activities of networks around food topics and also creating a specific web page of the URBACT Knowledge Hub, dedicated to urban sustainable food systems – all with the aim to support cities in their transitions to more sustainable food systems!

    These efforts also aim to build energy and commitment towards the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration – drafted by a coalition of subnational governments, UN agencies and NGOs in consultation with city and regional governments – which will be officially launched at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November 2021. We will be encouraging as many cities as possible to sign the declaration!

    So, we have quite a busy year ahead that we describe in more details here…

    Building more sustainable food systems

    Today’s food systems account for 21-37% of total greenhouse gases (GHGs). They are a primary cause of environmental degradation and significantly contribute to socio-economic and health inequalities.  As such, sustainable food systems worldwide must be founded in access to healthy diets and nutrition for all, agroecology and regenerative agriculture, circular economy, and the provisioning of just livelihoods.

    Achieving these systems and meeting current challenges requires taking a food-systems approach that addresses the range and complexity of interactions within food systems. Cities and regions are already leading the way in pioneering integrated food policies and strategies to drive positive food system change at a local level, including:

    • food waste reduction schemes;
    • healthy and sustainable food procurement for public canteens;
    • public campaigns to encourage behavioural change towards healthy diets, including the reduction of industrial meat and dairy consumption;
    • the creation of urban gardens, agricultural parks, incubator farms, regional food hubs, and farmers markets;
    • frameworks to support short supply chain and social and solidarity economy initiatives;
    • strengthening agroecological development plans;
    • integrated territorial and urban food planning;
    • strengthening urban-rural linkages; and
    • the development of pesticide-free and GMO-free districts, bio-districts and organic regions.

    The Glasgow Food Declaration – we invite all cities to sign!

    In November 2021, nearly 200 governments will come together in Glasgow for COP26, the most important climate change summit since the Paris Agreement. The Summit will face the monumental task of bridging the gap between countries’ current climate commitments and the significant transformation needed to tackle the climate and nature emergencies.

    Building on this momentum and uniting the most forward-thinking government actors to create the changes we need, the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration is a powerful pledge by subnational and local authorities to accelerate the development of integrated food policies and a call on national governments and international institutions to act.

    URBACT is a partner of this process and we invite all cities to sign it!

    The Glasgow Food Declaration builds on previous work by the World Urban Forum Medellin, the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, the C40 cities and others with the aim of bringing food systems’ transformation to COP26 as an integrated solution to the climate emergency. It promises to deliver co-benefits for biodiversity, ecosystem regeneration, circularity, access to sustainable and healthy diets for all, and the creation of resilient livelihoods for farm and food workers.

    Mouans-Sartoux - a city leading the way on food democracy and sovereignty

    Mouans-Sartoux is an URBACT good practice for its 100% organic school canteens and coordinator of the BioCanteens network. It has been active for decades on issues of integrated, sustainable urban food systems and has exemplified strongly some of the ways in which cities are implementing projects and actions that make local food systems more resilient and sustainable.

    In particular, Mouans-Sartoux strongly advocates for food democracy and food sovereignty, as well as for making food an exception to many of the standard rules of public procurement.

    On 23 March 2021, Mouans-Sartoux is organising an event inviting cities and experts to “Join the movement of European cities engaged for food democracy and sovereignty”. This is an invitation to go on a journey towards COP26 objectives and future targets – building on the experiences of cities that have already implemented solutions.

    At the event, Mouans-Sartoux will present some of its projects that concretely contribute to the Glasgow Food Declaration and explain the role of national networks of cities as a key lever for cities to get engaged in similar ways. URBACT is proud to be supporting this event and we invite you to register here!


    URBACT has everything in one place

    URBACT’s Food Knowledge Hub page will soon be updated with more cases and practices from European cities, which can support you in your food system transition.

    This page will build extensively on the knowledge and experience of seven networks of cities that have been supported by the URBACT programme since 2013 to work together specifically on topics of sustainable food and urban agriculture:

    • Food Corridors – empowering rural & urban food connections within European regions
    • BioCanteens – ensuring the distribution of sustainable school meals as a lever towards an integrated local agri-food approach
    • RU:RBAN – transferring Rome’s management model of urban gardens
    • BeePathNet – enriching the urban jungle with bees
    • Sustainable Food in Urban Communities – developing low-carbon and resource-efficient urban food systems
    • Agri-Urban – rethinking agri-food production in small and medium-sized cities
    • Diet for a Green Planet – addressing the environmental impact of food systems

    Visit the Food Knowledge Hub page and look out for its regular updates to pave your own journey towards a more sustainable food system and your own city contribution to COP26!

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  • The German Presidency conference ‘Europe’s Cities Fit For Future’

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    Subjective notes by URBACT Expert Iván Tosics on this input event for the New Leipzig Charter.


    Leipzig Charter

    The German Presidency conference on cities and on the New Leipzig Charter (NLC) had to be organised online. The digital webinar sessions were spread across three weeks in September 2020, starting with a half-day discussion about challenges and possible approaches, continuing with a full day on innovative city approaches in economic, environmental and social fields, and finishing with a half-day political discussion about implementation.


    All the links to the recordings of the five sessions and all presentations and supporting documents are available on the official event website.


    Overview of the event and key topics


    This was a large conference: over 500 visitors followed the conference on YouTube on the first day (the popularity of the thematic sessions was lower, at close to 100 participants). My personal interest to follow the 13.5 hours of conference discussions was based on my curiosity to get answers on the following questions. What is the novelty of the NLC? How did the main messages change as a consequence of the pandemic? To what extent can it help cities to achieve a greater role in EU policies? Besides, I was also interested in the selected innovative city approaches.


    The first two questions were quickly addressed at the beginning of the conference. According to Tilman Buchholz (Deputy Head of Unit, German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community) one of the unique selling points of the NLC is the idea of urban policy for the common good, addressing the fact that resources are not infinite. Participation and co-creation became stronger and there is a focus on implementation – a whole chapter deals with empowerment of cities.


    Silke Weidner (Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus – Senftenberg) addressed the new, and for many people controversial, topic of digitalisation, which has been given a large weight and put as a cross-sectoral dimension to the NLC, additional to the three main pillars: just, economic, green.


    The original ideas of the NLC have been modified in the light of COVID-19: besides densification and inner cities, also other issues have to get higher importance. However, there is no suggestion in the document that social distancing should become the major principle: it is still integrated development that is the focus and digital tools can help to avoid gentrification and urban sprawl.


    As Jonas Scholze (Managing Director of the German Association for Housing, Urban and Spatial Development) explained in a recent interview with URBACT: “Covid-19 gives a whole new meaning to the concept of city resilience … it is closely linked to the triangle of sustainability: communities with a functioning economy, environmentally and climate-friendly ‘green’ solutions and a socially just urban society are demonstrably more robust to crises. Other indicators of ‘strong’ cities are the provision of services of general interest in the social, educational and health sectors as well as digital infrastructures and services.”


    A dynamic opening half day


    The introductory half day of the conference brought a surprisingly dynamic three hours to the listeners. The tone was set by the disruptive keynote of Niklas Maak (book author and writer for the F.A.Z. feuilleton), who painted a radically different future, which will need different solutions. In his view the Coronavirus has highlighted the contradictions and inequalities of urban development and in this light we have to completely rethink how we live in cities.


    There is a threat that cities will lose shops, offices, and even cinemas. Although smart city planners have ideas how to reform the cities, in Maak’s opinion other ideas are needed. Cities should be rebuilt on the ruins of the previous uses: millions of square meters become vacant, giving opportunity to bring back affordable housing, small shops, new functions into the heart of the city, functions which were kicked out when plot prices were enormously high.


    New public living rooms might be developed like museums, new, more inclusive ways of education can be developed. Europe has chances to develop a third way (based on innovative, new understanding of cities), opposite to the market and state-dominated systems. Digitalisation might make middle and smaller towns attractive again, instead of forcing rural residents into small and expensive flats in large cities.


    In order to achieve radical changes, politicians have to take back power - market reactions cannot address these challenges. Public control of land has to dominate, pushing back private interests and unlimited speculation. In the digital age, the collective ownership of data (instead of expropriation of data by tech giants or authoritarian states) is of crucial importance. Digitalisation will ensure more return on economic activities and this money should be distributed in a more just way, compensating those people who still have to work in physical or service jobs.


    The inequality issue was also addressed by Anna Geppert (University Paris-Sorbonne). People not able to home work, would not only need compensation, but a decent life based on increased work-related wages – otherwise large protest will change the present status quo. She supported the NLC in giving greater importance to the functional urban areas and regional policies, thus bringing the problems of neighbourhoods into the right spatial scale.


    Wolfgang Teubner (Regional Director of the European Secretariat of ICLEI) talked about the choices and conflicts in the different dimensions of transformation, such as technological aspects, socio-economic challenges, and spatial restructuring. He suggested decarbonising energy systems, changing mobility systems (with lower number of cars); and addressing the big divides in the job market with strong social compensation systems (people in precarious jobs are preparing and delivering parcels to people sitting at home in home office). He challenged the view of Maak regarding territorial restructuring: to move away from large cities would either lead to sprawl or to destroying the original character of the small and medium cities by densification.


    Innovative city approaches


    Three consecutive workshops on innovative city approaches were moderated by URBACT experts, highlighting the cases of 3x4 cities in the economic, environmental and social fields, through presentations, panel discussions and Q&A sessions. (For more direct experiences of hundreds of cities inputting into the New Leipzig Charter, see the content and outcomes of the URBACT City Labs.)


    The Productive City workshop included:


    • the Urban Innovative Action (UIA) BRIDGE project from Rotterdam South (NL): linking the youth of a deprived urban area with local growth sectors through innovation within the city administration and co-creation with society.
    • the URBACT good practice of Preston (UK), recognising the power of public procurement in the local economy. Aiming to locate more spending in and around Preston, contracts are divided into smaller lots which are more attractive for local entrepreneurs – and local anchor institutions are approached to expand the procurement basis.
    • Mouans-Sartoux (FR) has an interesting story of a tiny city fighting the large international food industry. Their URBACT good practice, ‘food sovereignty’ started with school canteens, supplied with affordable, locally sourced organic food. The implications became significant, in terms of governance, planning and the local economy, preferring close-by producers and reducing food waste.
    • The UIA funded Aveiro (PT) Steam City project aimed to change the post-industrial (ceramics) city into one of Portugal’s first digital hubs, through innovative Tech Labs in schools, providing talent for the city’s growing tech industry base and encouraging the city’s best qualified citizens to stay in the area and boost the local economy.

    The Green City workshop focused on the following innovative city cases:


    • In Umeå (SE), a unique project aimed at halving the use of energy in a housing estate through: photovoltaic cells on the roofs; 137 new sustainable apartments with high energy efficiency; 405 renovated apartments; nearly fossil fuel-free district heating; and individual metering. With the help of the University, options were evaluated on how renovation could be completed as sustainably as possible while not increasing the rents more than 10 percent.
    • Ghent (BE) introduced a large car-free city centre, carefully selecting and communicating the precise narrative: not against all cars users but against those who use the city centre without having a destination there. Six sectors were designed and directly crossing from one to another was prohibited. A citizen council of 150 citizens was formed which judged the options and developed compromise solutions.
    • Wroclaw (PL) made innovative investments towards climate change adaptation. In a poor inner city area, where most buildings are privatised, but courtyard areas remained in municipality ownership, efforts were taken to green the courtyards with nature-based solutions. The interventions were planned together with the residents and, as a result, 90% of rainwater is kept within the area.
    • Stuttgart (DE) has an innovative planning and co-funding scheme for the development of green infrastructure in the Stuttgart Metropolitan Region. Some 160+ projects have been implemented throughout the region, covering all aspects of green infrastructure. Through a 1.5 million EUR regional fund, municipalities can get 50% co-financing for development of open spaces, allocated competitively.

    The Just City workshop introduced the following innovative city examples:


    • In Brussels (BE), CALICO is an intergenerational and intercultural co-housing project to preserve some neighbourhoods from gentrification through a partnership of eight organisations. Based on land owned by the Community Land Trust of Brussels, the land is safe from speculation, provides housing for lower-income families, includes Housing First units for homeless people, housing units for poor and single women, a community-oriented birth and end-of-life facility, and a community space open to local neighbourhood initiatives.
    • Athens (EL) launched the SynAthina platform to bring together the large number of diverse bottom-up initiatives. Over 450 community groups participate, and from their examples urban innovation prototypes are created, such as new ways of cleaning streets and empowering refugees (Co-Athens) – a contemporary art project in a physical space which is mostly inhabited by migrants.
    • In Barcelona (ES), Fundació Hàbitat3 manages 520 properties that provide adequate housing for 1 400 people at risk of housing exclusion. Fundació is acquiring and renovating empty homes together with local social enterprises which train and employ socially excluded people. Different types of subsidies by city councils are combined: private people lease to them the empty flats slightly below market price, while municipalities give allowances to people to pay the lower rent.
    • In Gdańsk (PL), many participatory tools are used to involve citizens in decision-making and co-creation processes. Citizens’ Assemblies are organised, Neighbourhood Houses are established, five million EUR budget is devoted to participatory budgeting and Thematic Councils are set up to monitor the implementation. The city acts as a broker on the basis of a new way of governance, a new profile of civil servants and improved relationships between public city administration and different city players.

    Closing sessions of the conference


    The closing half day of the conference dealt with implementation issues. Susanne Lottermoser (German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community) mentioned the Urban Agenda of the EU as a potential vehicle for the implementation of the NLC. There are, however, changes needed, such as a secretariat to monitor and assess partnerships and more legal expertise for partnerships to work on better regulation and financing. The dissemination of outputs has to be improved by dissemination hubs in all Member States (national contact points).


    Wenke Christoph (Permanent Secretary for Housing, City of Berlin) argued for giving higher political importance to the Urban Agenda. In this spirit, the European Recovery Initiative should involve cities, not to repeat the mistake of the European Semester in which cities are not involved directly.


    Normunds Popens (Deputy Director-General for Regional and Urban Policy at the EU Commission) was convinced that the urban dimension should get stronger through Functional Urban Areas and urban-rural links. In the new EU programming period, cities will be supported by thematic calls. For the first time ever there will also be a territorial priority objective: if PO5 is part of the national strategy, direct work with urban authorities will be possible. However, he could not give any positive answer on how local municipalities could manage to be involved in the process of national recovery planning.


    In the final political debate, the main message that was formulated was that a true translation of the principles to the ground is needed, which is up to politicians at all levels. The NLC should become a leading document for the next decade – allowing for local and regional politicians to be able to go to their national politicians and ask them why they do not implement these policies.


    My conclusions

    This conference nicely ‘unpacked’ the main principles of the New Leipzig Charter, while interesting and thought-provoking keynotes showed how important these principles are for the future. The 12 city cases shown during the three thematic workshops proved the usefulness of good practices, if applied in a correct way.


    While the Urban Innovative Action (UIA) programme helps pre-selected innovative ideas to develop fully, the URBACT Transfer Networks help to spread and adopt good ideas in a progressive way. All these principles and practices are needed to address the mounting urban challenges of the future.


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  • Reinforcing local food ecosystems: a recipe for success?

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    Discover how URBACT cities are using sustainable food and urban agriculture to address an array of local challenges.


    In this article, URBACT Programme Expert Marcelline Bonneau shines a light on several URBACT partner cities making the transition towards more sustainable local food ecosystems – and some of the practices they have developed in the process. She concludes with a reminder of the importance of integrated food policies at city level.

    A multitude of local food solutions in URBACT cities

    Since 2013, the URBACT programme has supported seven networks working on topics linked to sustainable food and urban agriculture engaging around 50 European cities in transnational learning and exchange. These are:  Food Corridors, BioCanteens, RU:rban, BeePathNet, Sustainable Food in Urban Communities, Agri-Urban and Diet for a Green Planet.

    The diverse topics covered by these URBACT cities reflect the complexity of our food systems and the interlinkages between sectors and policy priorities, as presented in the overview below.

    Themes covered by URBACT networks © Marcelline Bonneau

    From food to health, supporting social justice and fairness

    The Covid-19 pandemic has made increasingly obvious the need to ensure that nobody is left behind when considering one of our core primary needs, food. Amongst others, Atheniou (CY) Mollet del Vallès (ES), Milan (IT) and Mouans-Sartoux (FR) have been particularly active in readjusting their food systems during the pandemic, embedding solidarity in the further integration of their local food systems.

    In Mollet del Vallès, food justice has been on the agenda for quite a few years, as shown in the city’s involvement in the URBACT networks Diet for a Green Planet and Agri-Urban. The “Eat Well in Mollet” strategy promotes healthy dietary habits by giving citizens access to nutritious, local, organic and sustainable food, while educating them to make healthy food choices. Support under the strategy for vulnerable populations includes social allotments in an agro-ecological park.

    Workshop with families © City of Mollet dèl Vallès

    Food sovereignty as a cement for local production ecosystem

    Food sovereignty, as defined by Via Campesina, asserts that the people who produce, distribute, and consume food should control the mechanisms and policies of food production and distribution.

    To achieve food sovereignty and ensure local access to food, many cities have realised the importance of more locally based production, while supporting organic cultivation (including in urban gardens), as well as more sustainable distribution chains (supermarkets, markets, cooperatives…) and processing and preparation of food  (catering, canteens).

    The LAG Pays de Condruses (BE), part of the URBACT Agri-Urban and BioCanteens networks, has implemented an agricultural incubator model, combining food production, training and sale – the first such project in Wallonia (Belgium). Called ‘Point Vert’ (Green Point), the project offers access to organic land and streamlining of infrastructure and tools over six ha (including six greenhouses of 700 m2). Trainees can experiment with different crops and cultivation techniques and receive technical, entrepreneurial and selling support. It also provides a meeting and networking space for farmers.

    Point Vert © Strategic Design Scenarios (SDS)

    In addition, ensuring adequate urban planning and land use have also become key concerns. While still in its infancy, the URBACT Food Corridors network is seeking to reinforce rural-urban linkages, at the level of cities and (micro) regions.

    Food tourism as a key driver for cities

    Other cities focus on the attractiveness of their territory by increasing and improving local production, the processing and preparation of food, and the branding and promotion of their local products. This is the focus of Amarante (ES), part of the BeePathNet network, which focuses on urban beekeeping in relation to local environment, biodiversity and food self-sufficiency challenges. The city is developing a ‘Bee Path’ platform to promote its bee and honey-related products and attract tourists. The city works with beekeepers as well as schools, and, obviously, everybody takes part in World Bee Day!

    Bee products in Amarente © City of Amarante

    What about us people?

    Many cities have a focus on the need to change consumer behaviour: inviting their citizens to consume more organic, seasonal, local and plant-based diets, while strengthening local community engagement.

    In Krakow (PL), member of the URBACT RU:RBAN network, this is done via the ‘Gardens with Class’ programme for Community-building and schools. This programme supports the set-up of gardens in primary schools, a method that is educational both in terms of form and content, with a direct experience of nature. The ultimate goal is to open these gardens to the community and to reward school teachers with prizes for their engagement and achievements. Around 50 teachers are involved in 18 schools (one per district), with benefits expected for local communities, health, teachers’ careers, and new ways of learning.

    ‘Gardens with Class’ in Krakow © City of Krakow

    Public procurement as a leverage for supporting local organic consumption

    Cities can also work to turn legislative and market frameworks from obstacles to enablers in encouraging a shift towards more sustainability. Public procurement is one such tool which has proven to be extremely useful for European cities.

    For example, Mouans-Sartoux (FR) – lead partner of the URBACT BioCanteens network – has opened the debate for elected representatives and civil servants to adapt legislation so that public procurement can effectively improve food provisioning for school canteens. The key principles applied by Mouans-Sartoux are:

    • Separating out previously large food ‘lots’ to enable local mono producers to submit proposals;
    • Systematic and organised inclusion of organic produce;
    • An increase of organic food lots;
    • Introducing questionnaires to increase understanding of local suppliers and their produce; and,
    • Defining selection criteria to better take into account quality and environmental issues.

    As such, collaboration with local suppliers has become more realistic and efficient than ever.

    A sustainable school canteen in Mouans-Sartoux © Strategic Design Scenarios (SDS)

    The importance of local urban food policies

    These are just some of the many stories we could share from URBACT cities across Europe. Overarching all these specific and individual examples is the importance of cities developing  an adequate policy framework to ensure a coherent and structured, but also transversal and integrated way of supporting food and urban agriculture-related projects. This is especially challenging as food policy is still addressed by multiple ministries and departments across local, regional and national levels. We don’t have Food Ministries in Europe yet!

    A great example of such a policy approach and one of the flagship outcomes of the URBACT Sustainable Food in Urban Communities network is the Brussels Good Food Strategy. Working within the network, the region developed a local participatory process, gathered knowledge, co-created a vision, and planned measurable actions.

    The co-creation of the Good Food strategy in Brussels © Bruxelles environnement

    The resulting strategy was launched in 2016 along the principles of inclusion, local authorities leading by example, partnerships, behavioural change and increasing stakeholder ability to initiate their own projects. The strategy includes 15 actions structured under seven thematic headings:

    1. Increase local sustainable food production;
    2. Support the transition to a re-localised and sustainable supply for all;
    3. Support the transition of  demand [towards more sustainable food products] for all;
    4. Develop a sustainable and desirable "good food" culture;
    5. Reduce food waste;
    6. Design and promote the food systems of the future; and
    7. Ensure strategic implementation.

    After the success of this strategy, a new, more ambitious strategy is on its way for 2022, co-created once again by all the stakeholders of the Brussels’ food ecosystem.

    We look forward to the outcomes of the ongoing URBACT networks related to food and to seeing their partner cities’ journeys towards better access to local high quality products for their citizens.

    Interested in more sustainable urban food policies and approaches? We invite you to dig into the information already shared by our cities and networks and check out future URBACT articles on the theme of food.

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