What Makes Urban Food Policy Happen? Insights from five case studies

Organization(s): iPES Food
Author: Corinna Hawkes, Jess Halliday
Country: Brazil, Canada, Kenya, Netherlands, United States of America
Year: 2017
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Cities are rising as powerful agents in the world of food, says a new report from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), and they are finding innovative ways to put in place policies that take on challenges in global food systems.

The report shows that food policy is no longer the domain of national governments alone and draws lessons from the ways in which five cities around the world have developed urban food policies:

  • Belo Horizonte‘s approach to food security (Brazil) was one of the first integrated food security policies in the world, and the dedicated food agency within city government has survived for over 20 years.
  • The Nairobi Urban Agriculture Promotion and Regulation Act (Kenya) represents a U-turn on long-standing opposition to urban farming from city authorities. The 2015 legislation came on the back of civil society advocacy and a window of opportunity opened by constitutional reform in Kenya.
  • The Amsterdam Approach to Healthy Weight (the Netherlands) requires all city government departments to contribute to addressing the structural causes of childhood obesity through their policies, plans and day-to-day working.
  • The Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Plan (Canada) involved establishment of an innovative governance body to promote collaboration between local governments within a city region, and other organizations with an interest in the food and farming economy.
  • Detroit‘s Urban Agriculture Ordinance (US) required the City of Detroit to negotiate over State-level legislative frameworks so as to have the authority to regulate and support urban farming, a burgeoning activity in the city.

Although these policies were all developed and delivered in very different contexts, the report’s authors identified a number of factors that, time and again, were seen to drive policy forward.

Whether the policies were initiated from the top down or from the bottom up, the cases showed that an inclusive process as the policy moves forward — involving communities, civil society and actors from across the food system — is what matters most, helping to align policies with needs and creating a broad support base to help with implementation.

The examples also showed that even when policies are initially framed around a limited set of priorities, there is much scope for bringing other departments on board and expanding the ambitions along the way.

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