Edit 03 November 2020
by Marcelline Bonneau, UIA Expert

Food for city resilience @EURegionsWeek 2020

Food for city resilience @EURegionsWeek 2020
Temporary Common Kitchen at l’Avant-Goût © MEL Davy Rigault
On 15 October 2020, during the 18th European Week of Regions and Cities, 5 UIA projects (URBAN SOIL 4 FOOD - Milan, TAST’in FIVES - Lille, OpenAgri - Milan, MAC- Pozzuoli, and A2UFood- Heraklion) shared their insights on the ways food can be used in European cities in order to develop their environmental, economic and social resilience. This article summarises the main key points from this session.

How can cities make the of food for their urban challenges?

Activities around food production, preparation and consumption, as well as waste management are growing priorities in the local political agenda. Mitigating poverty and developing jobs and skills in projects anchored in their territories; increasing the link between urban and peripheral rural areas while strengthening local food systems; addressing foodwaste as a new city resource; developing circular economy approaches; prototyping and testing new solutions; targeting communities, as well as private stakeholders. Lille, Milan, Maribor, Heraklion, Pozzuoli and Ljubljana have been experimenting bold solutions while addressing complex urban challenges such as poverty, waste production, economic development and food sovereignty.

A wide array of proposed solutions

The density of our session covered only partially the richness of the projects. Yet, the presentations and discussion with our five panelists (Brina Lazar from the City of Maribor, Rossana Torri from the City of Milan, Gaëlle Werkling from Baluchon Incubator – TAST’in FIVES partner, Pietro Elisei UIA expert for the City of Pozzuoli, Christina Marouli UIA expert for the City of Heraklion) enabled us getting a teaser for further learnings.

OpenAgri and URBAN SOIL 4 FOOD are strongly embedded in existing policies. In Milan, the policy scope has been widened during the project’s lifetime, from jobs and skills – and sustainable food (i.e. the Milan Food Policy) - towards circular economy. In Maribor, the project was part of the circular economy local policy and is now becoming a part of a bigger one, reflecting an overall strategy for the municipality: “we seek to establish linkages between the urban and rural dimension” explained Brina Lazar. As for Pietro Elisei, the richness of the project are the diverse and complementary policies addressed from trainings to food production and consumption via the creation of a new market, all this within an urban regeneration project).

Pietro Elisei also underlined that “the project had difficulties with managing such a complex action with so many partners”. Indeed, these projects have also created new ways of collaborating with a range of “unusual” partners for city administrations, from universities to private stakeholders, via civil society. In Lille, the project was able to add new needed partners along the way. Even if Gaëlle Werkling explained that “including new partners in the project was key and helped overcome some challenges during the implementation”, she also added, that “it did require additional work for ensuring properly functioning governance”. Rossana Torri has taken it as “an opportunity for the administration to experiment a new way to work together with other partners”. Definitely, as Christina Marouli suggested “the interactions between the MUA and the partners are very helpful because of the different point of views”, such as cultural and social acceptance which made the partners work and collaborate more closely.

While being in the last phase of their projects, the partners also shared their future plans: to upscale in the city and maintain existing (digital) tools while selling their products to ensure financial viability (URBAN SOIL 4 FOOD), to keep the municipality in charge (OpenAgri), to develop a hybrid public-private model (TAST’in FIVES) and to envisage a specific fund to finance such projects (A2UFooD).

Digital tool for hotels to monitor, evaluate  and reduce their foodwatse, © A2UFOOD

What can we take away from this session?

Our five panelists shared key messages which can be useful for cities to embark in similar journeys:

  • The need to work transversally in the administration, beyond traditional silos and an integrated manner (horizontally and vertically);
  • The time and investments required to unravel the complexity of these types of projects (encompassing social, environmental and economic issues), to adequately co-create;
  • The need for a proper dialogue with stakeholders requiring for city administrations learning new skills and attitudes;
  • The importance to ensure a functioning policy framework and political support:
  • The need to get citizens and stakeholders' buy-in;
  • The potential new roles to be played by cities locally and with other governance levels; and,
  • The flexibility of the UIA programme to adjust the project to new (partnership) realities.

These projects are still all being finalized and can still teach us more in the upcoming months, look out for further insights!

Production of safe and standardized urban soil ©URBAN SOIL 4 FOOD
Production of safe and standardized urban soil ©URBAN SOIL 4 FOOD

Watch the recording of the session here


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