On October 16th, World Food Day will call attention to the crucial role that small-scale family farmers play in creating a more sustainable global food system – and it couldn’t come at a more opportune time. As the global population approaches nine billion by the year 2050, nourishing the world and preserving diminishing environmental resources presents a daunting challenge. Over the coming week, Food Tank will highlight the many ways in which small-scale farmers – both urban and rural – are growing healthy, nutritious food for their communities while protecting the planet.
The following is a declaration presenting the work done by young food professionals from 24 European countries in a week-long Eating City Summer Campus at La Bergerie de Villarceaux, France. It is an outcome of discussions, presentations, working groups and general conversation.
All of us agreed on the strong need for paradigm change in city food policy. Food should not simply be a commodity, it should have a human face. We propose a food system that is transparent, fair to all actors involved, and which focuses on providing a sufficient amount of nutritious, environmentally-friendly, quality food to everyone. This declaration is a summary of the ideas devised by all participants to reach these goals. We focus on general policy and offer recommendations on how to educate all actors in the food system, as categorized by the general Eating City declaration.
The Eating City needs to implement an open, transparent and participatory food policy. This should link urban and rural communities and serve the needs of all people. These policies should focus on re-thinking the role of food production and consumption, creating a fair and balanced relationship between the two. This supports an educational framework and puts emphasis on sufficiency rather than abundance. There is a great need to focus on moving from a ‘more with less’ food-production paradigm to an approach where ‘less can be more’.
Legislation can act as a useful tool for producers and consumers to organize food chains in new ways. This can be implemented by policymakers and communities. To support this, an open policy forum is needed, whereby different actors and citizens can pitch ideas and foster dialogue on food policy. Food policy should also be evaluated by a panel of outside experts in a trans-disciplinary way to promote knowledge exchange and the use of best practices.
To implement the wide-ranging food policy, the city should have a designated department focusing on policy affecting all actors in the food system.
Networking and knowledge exchange for the primary production industry should be a priority area. This can be done through a variety of methods. Professional skills-update opportunities help the farmers to remain efficient. Farmers’ dialogue should be made public, keeping the system transparent. Online platforms allow timely communication between the farmer and the consumer, without geographical barriers. Social events between farmers and the consumers foster relationships and knowledge dissemination, attracting media attention in a engaging and informal manner.
Transport and Warehousing
Research to optimize efficiency within the transport and warehousing industries will help to reduce costs, carbon footprint, and waste, among many other issues. Investing in improved logistics management will help to reduce the number of actors in a chain, helping to create a more transparent food system. We see the potential of new technological approaches to food mapping research as a means for greater understanding of the process from farm to fork.
The need for diversification over-burdens small-scale producers, preventing a competitive playing field with larger industries. Access to business, legal, and financial support and advice may help to create efficiencies to produce required documentation. Within the health and safety framework, artisanal methods should be recognized. Best practice case studies should be made to allow other sector players to improve their methods based on proven success stories.
City Food Supply Chain
Policies should enable the greening of urban spaces, from edible landscapes and community growing spaces to formal educational training areas for urban food production. This could increase public awareness of issues of seasonality, and highlight the skill involved in production. Urban planning should include flexible retail areas for local producers and social entrepreneurs, within the city and surrounding areas. This provides access to a supply of affordable, nutritious, seasonal food, which therefore supports local economic development, providing health and social benefits. A public procurement consortium for locally- and ethically-sourced produce creates easier access and reliable markets. City food policy has to think global whilst acting local.
Kitchen – Food Preparation
Apprenticeships and on-the-job training for the hospitality and catering sector will provide knowledge to professional kitchens more efficient. At home, informal education about food through fun, social activities in the community helps provide confidence and skills to prepare fresh meals that make the most of local and regional bounty. City food policy regulations should take into account the possibility of sharing homemade food in public spaces, or areas under catering contract to facilitate educational events.
Eating Out of Home and Serving Food
Training should be provided to all front-of-house staff to be aware of the story of food within their establishment. This allows consumers to make an informed choice about their food, and is an aspect of informal education. “Open-door” kitchen policies should be encouraged as the norm to allow transparency for consumers.
There should be a mandatory waste management plan for the city’s food system that takes into account each actor. Reducing waste is the most efficient waste policy. We recognize that there will never be zero waste within the food system, but working toward minimizing it is invaluable to food city policy. Campaigns to raise awareness about waste issues within the community are also an important aspect for consumers. Nutrient recycling, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, is an invaluable part of rethinking management of limited natural resources.
Communities across Europe are already taking action in schools, workplace and daily lives. Your support can help us to realize our vision. Together, we can empower each other to value our food system, create a well-connected rural-urban society, supporting young and old to foster a sustainable food system that can be enjoyed for generations to come.