Yearly Archives: 2020

Reinforcing local food ecosystems: a recipe for success?

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.

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Food-related activities as a leverage against urban poverty

The UIA TAST’in FIVES project, taking place in the Fives neighbourhood of Lille, France, has aimed at using the concept of food (from growing, picking up, preparing, cooking, and eating) to propose a systemic model to fight against urban poverty, including social and economic inclusion, health, education, and empowerment. Indeed, with a population of 20,000 inhabitants, 50% below 30 and 22% unemployed, 45% of the households of Fives live below the poverty threshold[1]. More than 1,000 families receive food parcels from the Secours Populaire Français. The area suffers from poverty, with under and malnutrition, as well related health issues (obesity, cholesterol, diabetes….).

Yet, TAST’in FIVES has not sought to address those directly and to carry out a top-down health-focused project convening moralising tips for everyday life: it has intended to provide a convivial place and useful activities where each participant could find a direct benefit from herself or himself. While indirectly addressing poverty issues, it sought to have a wider impact on residents’ lives, using food-related activities to create commensality, share moments, empower, enable socialisation, develop skills, and support access to the job market.

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Addressing poverty via food solidarity in cities

People of varied backgrounds and from all over the world met at the UrbanA Community Conversation on 30th June 2020 to address the question of food poverty and solidarity. UrbanA Fellow Marcelline Bonneau, an expert in both the URBACT programme and the Urban Innovation Actions initiative, led the conversation. She began by sharing her experience and understanding of how European municipalities have approached food poverty during the COVID19 crisis. She focused on three questions:

  • How have cities supported those in need of food during the crisis?
  • How have cities reorganized traditional food aid systems, such as funded meals in canteens or regular food distributions?
  • How can food more widely address (urban) poverty?
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Covid-19: a springboard for more food solidarity?

Milan’s Dispositivo aiuto alimentare (c)Milan Food Policy

Cities have shown how agile they can be in addressing increased needs of their local population in terms of access to (healthy) food. As the economic crisis unfolds and hits the most vulnerable first, it is important to think about what cities can do to sustain and transfer such good practices and what support they need at national and European level.

The idea behind all initiatives is not to leave anybody behind during the Covid-19 crisis.” Josep Monras i Galindo, Mayor, Mollet de Vallès (Spain)

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Testing a future Food Court by prototyping it in real-life: lessons from the experience of UIA TAST’in FIVES’ L’Avant-goût

Refugee Food Festival at L’Avant-goût ©Charles Mangin

Examples of temporary experimentations in cities worldwide have boomed in the last decade: whether they take the form of disruptive usage of public space for artistic purposes or to look at urban space differently, whether they become the trendiest spot to go out or do shopping, whether they incubate the city of tomorrow, whether they are led by citizens, private companies, universities, public authorities or all of these together, they all play a crucial role in today’s cities .

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