Food Strategy Action Areas
Food systems are made up of so many seemingly complex activities and topics. In this section, we’ve gathered key resources about specific food strategy themes and topics to enhance your knowledge and inspire your efforts.
Effective and cohesive governance is the first fundamental building block of delivering food work strategically across a city. In this section you will learn about how to approach this issue and look at assessing your current capacities in this area.
The Roots of a Successful City Food Strategy - Brighton and Hove, UK
Leadership and Governance in Strategy Development, Johannesburg, South Africa
- An example of a multi-stakeholder Municipal Food Security Committee, established to serve as an advisory board to the city government over food issues.
- The committee proposes strategic actions to reinforce food security, monitors implementation, and acts as an intermediary between city government and other organisations to ensure no duplication of efforts.
- A toolkit to evaluate your current performance or learn more about the process of working on food policy using a stakeholder model. It is recommended to complete the entire toolkit in the beginning to have a baseline measure to assess progress. The goal is to assess your capacity to do policy work.
Healthy and resilient food environments
The physical, economic, and cultural contexts in which our food choices are made have a big impact on what we buy and consume. Much has been written about the way that these food environments promote unhealthy choices. This section has information and examples of ways to shift food behaviours by changing the food choice environments.
Building Food and Nutrition Resilience in Quezon City (Philippines)
Policies to promote food security, health, and resilience through integrated, food-sensitive programming.
Healthy and sustainable food environments in The Flathead Reservation (USA)
Improving food environments in a U.S. indigenous community and research on tools evaluating the initiatives.
Grocery Store Incentive Area Personal Property Tax Credit (Baltimore, USA)
Grocery Store Tax Credit initiative to entice new supermarkets to open in underserved communities.
- The report describes actions that city governments have taken to shape the urban food environment for improved nutrition. Wherever possible, it also details the process that cities followed to take action.
Safe and nutritious diets
Ensuring access to safe and nutritious food is a cornerstone of the food security agenda yet cities often lack the upstream powers to shape the quality or quantity of the food supply. This section offers examples of innovative ideas used by cities of all kinds to improve the availability and accessibility of good food.
Scout Food Movement (Tel Aviv and Yafo, Israel)
Promoting food literacy to turn healthy, sustainable eating into a trend for the younger generation in Israel.
Health on the Way (Quito, Ecuador)
Fixed and mobile stalls for residents to get free nutrition education and health screening.
Nutrition Smart City (Pune, India & Birmingham, UK)
A partnership of the ‘Nutrition Smart City’ initiative to develop policies, practices, and pilot programmes.
- The U.S. Institute of Medicine looked at evidence for local government actions that would have the great impact in promoting healthy eating and describes 9 key strategies.
- The report is focussed on U.S. cities, but the ideas are easily adaptable to cities in any region.
- For each strategy, the authors describe specific steps for implementation. Recommendations include improving access to healthy foods in lower-income areas, using zoning laws to change local food environments, requiring menu labelling in restaurants, and healthy eating education.
Public procurement and school nutrition programs
Leveraging the power of local government’s own food purchasing can do a lot to support healthy and sustainable food production. Developing better school food standards is also a key step in improving health and educational outcomes for the next generation and allows cities to help shift cultural norms about the importance of good food in public spaces.
School breakfasts programme (La Paz, Bolivia)
Overhauling school breakfast menus to ensure children receive healthy, locally sourced food.
Summer Children’s Food Programme – Glasgow, UK
Providing hot meals and food-based activities for children in the summer holidays.
ACTIVITAL – Cuenca, Ecuador
A three-year food education programme in schools for children, parents, teachers, and catering professionals.
- A report from Sustain UK outlining a plan for London to increase the proportion of sustainable food into school meals.
- Provides a good overview of training and guidance that’s required, and finer details including how to select vendors, as well as lessons learned from case studies.
- Although targeted to a London audience, its content is very relevant to cities of all kinds looking to adapt their food procurement.
Food loss and waste
Too much of the food that’s lost on the production side or wasted at the household level ends up in landfills which emits harmful greenhouse gases. Cities are well positioned to act given their role in waste management. This section has information on measuring urban food waste and inspiration from cities that have implemented innovative and successful projects.
Oslo - Waste Management Strategy (Norway)
Using innovative technologies and applied behaviour change techniques to encourage residents to recycle and reduce food waste.
Food to the Rescue: DC Central Kitchen (Washington D.C., USA)
Programs focused on reducing hunger, food waste, empowering communities, and creating meaningful career opportunities for at-risk individuals.
Foodsavers Ghent (Belgium)
A logistics platform that recovers and redistributes food surpluses, a collaboration between the City of Ghent and supermarkets.
- Gold standard resource for any cities planning to conduct a food waste assessment.
- Covers residential, industrial and commercial environments with recommendations for cities on steps to reduce waste based on assessment findings.
Emergency planning, response and recovery
Acute crises like extreme weather or long-term threats such as climate change present enormous problems for cities relying on a global food supply system. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the fragility of our current food systems and showed that the worst impacts in times of crises are felt by the most vulnerable. This section highlights responses by cities to the pandemic and insights on a systematic approach to analysing your own city’s food system vulnerabilities.
As well as the resources below, we have an entire section dedicated to this topic and an accompanying webinar series. Explore here.
Food aid system in response to COVID-19 (Milan, Italy)
Coordinating food aid during the pandemic through food cards, food aid hubs, and solidarity actions.
Urban agriculture as a response to Covid-19 (Quito, Ecuador)
Distributing food to those most in need through a 5-step strategy.
Pune emergency food response (India)
Food security initiatives, such as shelters for migrant workers and labourers, distributing food kits, and a 24x7 helpline facility for seniors and differently-abled citizens.
- Good example of how to assess the potential impacts of extreme weather events and recommendations on how local governments can create a more resilient food system.
- Give a system wide analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on the food system before making a series of policy recommendations. These cover protection of those most vulnerable to hunger, food system workers, food production/agriculture and trade, supply chains and markets.
Food-sensitive planning and urban design
Among the basic necessities of life – water, shelter, air, and food – urban planners have traditionally ignored food until an upsurge of interest in the last two decades. The planning profession has started to recognise the powerful role they can play in food systems – from enabling rules on healthy food retail, urban agriculture, farmland preservation, and in more indirect ways, such as increasing access to public transportation.
Detroit’s New “AgriHood” is the Future of Urban Planning (U.S.A.)
An urban garden, fruit orchard and sensory garden promoting sustainability, community and agriculture as the centrepiece of mixed-use urban developments.
Integrating Land-Use Planning and Climate Change in Bogota’s City Master Plan (Colombia)
A coordinated strategy to build a sustainable city that promotes inclusivity, food security, and addresses climate change risks.
Food-sensitive planning and urban design: A conceptual framework for achieving a sustainable and healthy food system (2011) [see Section 5, pg 33+]
25 concise case studies of how cities have integrated food into planning and urban design.
- A comprehensive guide to food-sensitive planning and urban design, with an introduction to the concept, how to put it into practice in your community and a series of case studies for inspiration.
- Originally written for Victoria, Australia but presented in a way that any city can adapt the concept.
Equity and inclusion
The modern, industrialised food system is inequitable. The benefits of the system are out of reach for many, with millions globally still not able to meet their daily food needs and many of the largest food companies relying on low-wage, precarious employment. Communities, advocates, and urban leaders are coming together to imagine a food system where the most vulnerable, those living in low-income neighbourhoods and communities of colour can all prosper.
Growing Food Equity in New York City (USA)
NYC’s policy agenda to promote food equity and advance the right to healthy food.
London Living Wage (UK)
A policy for all employees of the Greater London Authority and contractors to be paid a higher-rate London Living Wage.
Urban Early Warning and Early Action Initiative (Nairobi, Kenya)
Periodic randomized surveillance to assess the food security status of low-income communities using novel urban-sensitive indicators.
- The One NY Plan looks at all aspects of urban life, not just food, but it leads with a strong focus on equity and justice.
- The report is a good example of initiatives that cities can take to achieve a more equitable and inclusive food system, including many actions that are not directly related to food but can have a big impact (e.g. affordable housing, public transportation, and job creation).
Major food system changes in recent generations have impacted urban-rural linkages. The decline of traditional markets, the globalisation of diets and overall rapid urbanisation have led to threats to near-urban farmland and dramatically increased competition for smallholder producers. Many city regions are working to strengthen linkages between people growing and consuming food as a way to lessen the gaps between urban and rural communities.
Transforming Accra’s City-Region Food System through Robust Rural-Urban Linkages
A webinar sharing insights on strategies to build rural-urban links in Ghana.e
Rural-Urban Linkages and Innovation Cities
An OECD report on rural-urban linkages includes examples from Germany, France, Canada and the UK.
- A report from the FAO’s Food for Cities Initiative that lays out the rationale for building links between urban and rural communities and the challenges some cities have faced in doing so.
- It provides a helpful set of policy recommendations to strengthen urban-rural links, organised by categories such as food security, economic prosperity, health, and environmental sustainability.
Food production/ Urban agriculture
Increasing and diversifying local food growing opportunities is a common strategy that many cities have pursued to build healthier, more sustainable communities, reconnect people with food, combat air pollution, and revitalise abandoned lots. The resources and examples below show what is possible and offers guidance on policy approaches to expand urban agriculture in city-regions.
Urban agriculture ordinances (Kampala, Uganda)
Ordinances to permit urban agriculture, developed by a non-profit in consultation with urban farmers and communities.
Urban Micro-gardening (Dakar, Senegal)
Micro-gardens to foster sustainable urban agriculture, run primarily by vulnerable groups, especially women and elderly people.
Antananarivo Urban Agriculture (Madagascar)
Micro-gardens in low-income neighbourhoods to help tackle food insecurity.
- The FAO report focused on urban and peri-urban horticulture, and evidence that it can help to grow greener cities in Africa.
- Drawing on surveys and case studies from 22 countries, the report describes the current state of urban and peri-urban horticulture across the continent.
- Its major finding is that the commercial production of fruit and vegetables provides livelihoods for thousands of urban residents and food for millions more.
Climate change adaptation and mitigation
Food systems are linked to 30% of the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change. By 2050, two thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas, making cities a key player in promoting sustainable food systems. Local governments have significant powers to act and have a positive impact. Cities are taking action through agricultural mitigation and adaptation plans, reducing food loss and waste, promoting sustainable diets, and more.
Toronto's urban farms aid food security and reduce carbon emissions (Canada)
Toronto’s "closed loop" farms create healthy soil from organic waste, which is then used to grow fresh vegetables for food-insecure communities.
Rosario Uses Urban Farming to Tackle Economic and Climate Crises (Argentina)
The municipality’s Urban Agriculture Program gives low-income residents access to underutilized and abandoned public and private land to cultivate food and serves as part of its climate change strategy.
Cool Food Pledge
The World Resource Institute’s Cool Food Pledge works with cities and businesses serving 940 million meals a year to reduce the environmental impact of the food they serve.
- Research report from the C40 Cities network on strategies that local governments can support to reduce the environmental impact of consumer activities, with a substantial focus on food.
- Very good resource for those looking for research evidence on the impact of policy initiatives in this area, along with many well-designed infographics to communicate the findings.
- Also includes a stakeholder mapping framework of key actors and specific recommendations on ways that cities can work with each one to catalyse action.
Economy and community development
The food sector is often one of the biggest drivers of local economies and has a big impact not only on jobs but on health, social and environmental issues. Cities can intervene to support the sector in ways that entrench existing inequalities or in ways that promote vibrant and inclusive community development. This section tells the stories of cities that are taking action to support local businesses, foster entrepreneurship, and adapt policies to promote green economies.
8 Cities Where Incubator Kitchens Are Building Economic Opportunity (USA)
The article profiles 8 U.S. cities where incubator kitchens help start-ups and small businesses access culinary workspaces, business expertise and community connections that help get their businesses off the ground.
Toronto's New Residential Apartment Commercial Zone (Canada)
Toronto’s new RAC zoning changed the rules for nearly 500 apartment tower sites, allowing for food markets, shops, small businesses, classes, community services, cafés, and other initiatives that had been prohibited under traditional zoning.
Amsterdam’s Circular Economy Roadmap (Netherlands)
The roadmap includes dozens of projects designed to promote a green economy. An evaluation found that initiatives in the areas of Construction, Biomass & Food, and Consumer goods will be among the most promising to scale up.
- Provides a menu of approaches that planners and local government officials can draw from to help build their community food systems and strengthen the local economy.
- Describes how to create an economic development plan for community food systems through direct (training, investments, marketing local foods) and indirect strategies (community plans, polices & regulations).
- The focus is the USA but has lots of insights for use by cities globally.
Cultivating food system champions
A successful urban food strategy needs support from within local government and committed supporters on the outside as well. Champions can be individuals and groups from the community, political leaders, or business leaders from the food sector. Their support can be the difference between success and failure, so it is a topic that needs more attention. This section gathers insights on ways to find, support, and cultivate these food champions in support of your food policy.
The Food Project (Boston, USA)
The Food Project’s mission is to create a thoughtful and productive community of youth and adults from diverse backgrounds who work together to build a sustainable food system. Alongside specific urban ag activities, the Food Project employs 120 teenagers each year from diverse backgrounds in meaningful work on their farms.
- A report from IPES Food that envisions two futures, the first business as usual and the second with profound system change.
- Though aimed at Civil Society Organisations, the content is equally important for local authorities, who are integral in realising change, particularly in the opportunities section from page 84 (as well as pathways to avoid in the preceding section). These are based around creating diverse and sustainable food systems, governance, financial flows and operation of civil society structures.
- It will help local authorities consider opportunities for system change and understand how to collaborate across scales to facilitate this change.
- Also available in French and Spanish.
- Part of a longer OECD report on food policies, this section offers insights on best practices in building alliances and navigating groups with diverging interests to influence the food policy process.
- The report has specific recommendations on ways to design inclusive, evidence-based policy processes that help to prevent or manage frictions when moving forward progressive policies.
- Particularly useful in understanding how to deal with differences in people’s values and in building a shared understanding of the facts.