A new study “Food & Cities” presented at the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition’s 9th Annual Forum November 28 shows that cities can make sizeable contributions to reaching the UN’s 2030 the Sustainable Development Goals. Here are seven examples:
MILAN: REDUCE FOOD WASTE BY 50% BY 2020
Milan is waging war against food waste, aiming for a 50% reduction by 2030, and family habits account for over 40% of the food that ends up in trash bins. Eliminating this food waste would result in a savings of 450 euros annually per family. The City of Milan and its Food Policy Office therefore decided to focus on a goal of reducing food waste by offering a 20% tax cut for people who donate foods to charity (instead of throwing it away). As a result, 840 tons of food was saved in just six months. If this project continues in 2019, it will involve an estimated 10,000 companies and result in a savings for the city of 1.8 million euros. The city government is also working with school cafeterias, where 106 (out of 418) have started a program to redistribute over 140 tons of fruit and bread during school snacks. The program so far has involved 17,000 school children in 779 classrooms and resulted in a 17% reduction of food waste in schools. This is an impressive result considering that the city of Milan supplies about 85,000 meals per day for a total of 17 meals annually.
TEL AVIV – YAFO: A CITY AIMING TO BE 100% SUSTAINABLE
Tel Aviv is a leader in environmental sustainability. In 2016 it started its Bon Appetite program, aimed at finding solutions to improve the health of city dwellers as well as protect the environment. The program sparked a series of best practices that can be enacted on a global level, like for example the urban gardening initiative that uses the rooftops of shopping malls as garden space. As of today 38 shopping center rooftops are “under cultivation” using hydroponic technology. The herbs and vegetables produced on the rooftops are available for purchase by the restaurants below. The city government of Tel Aviv – Yafo ha also instituted the “Green Label,” an award for the companies that have adopted the best “green” solutions for improving the environment. So far, 50 companies have been awarded this recognition, resulting in savings to the city of over $250,000 each year in both water and electricity bills, eliminating 2.5 million single-dose products, limiting over 3,700 deliveries during peak traffic hours, reducing food waste by 25 tons and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 650 tons.
SEOUL: THE CITY THAT LOOKS TO THE FUTURE BY INVESTING IN NUTRITION FOR SCHOOLKIDS
From 2011 to 2016, the city of Seoul has invested more than $2.5 billion for the Eco School project, which aims to give all of the city’s 705,000 students in its 940 elementary and junior high schools access to healthy and high quality food. The project has now been extended to 115 high schools. Seoul was the first city to look at health and quality of life in terms of its entire population, and picked school cafeterias as the best target to eliminate differences in diet stemming from economic causes. The program involves low income families that frequently have no access to healthy food.
SYDNEY: SOLUTIONS FOR 17,000 PEOPLE THAT HAVE NO ACCESS TO FOOD
Food insecurity in Australia’s largest cities is increasing, and Sydney estimates that 8.5% of its population (or about 17,000 people) cannot afford to buy food. The city government is getting involved through the private sector. It is working with FoodLab Sydney, an incubator for food companies trying to put an end to food insecurity. The program is developed by the University of Sydney – Sydney Environment Institute (SEI) and by the University of New South Wales Canberra, and aims to support innovative food sector companies; encourage the development of socially sustainable companies; and to develop a network of companies that encourage access of healthy and affordable food for all.
NEW YORK: WORKING TO IMPROVE AWARENESS OF HEALTHY FOOD
In recent years, the Big Apple has enacted innovative food policies aimed at improving the health of residents, reducing food insecurity, improving access to healthy, affordably-priced food, and protecting the environment. The most significant decision was to target restaurants as a key driver of change. To project the health of New Yorkers, restaurants and food retailers where forbidden to use trans fats, and were obliged to post the calorie count for each dish on the menu so that diners could opt for the healthiest choice. More generally, warning labels on high sodium foods were made obligatory and balanced nutritional criteria were mandated for foods sold in public places.
RIO DE JANEIRO: THE CITY WITH A TWIN SOUL
The Brazilian city needs to meet a key challenge: manage economic and demographic growth while still paying attention to sustainability and protecting its environment. Rio is a very active city that has succeeded in integrating the natural landscape that surrounds it with its agricultural sector. However, the city is still taking its first steps in this direction, as demonstrated by the fact that only 33% of its farmers are officially authorized to cultivate the land. In this sense, the city has a long way to go to improve its governance to encourage economic growth and a culture of sustainability thereby providing healthy and inclusive food and agriculture to involve all of its inhabitants.
OUAGADOUGOU: 71 WATER PONDS TO FEED THE POPULATION
Ouagadougou, the capitol of Burkina Faso, needs to increase the production of local vegetables to feed its ever-growing population (which has exploded from 1.13 million in 2000 to 2.55 million in 2015). This increase in food demand has led to the creation of agricultural spaces within the city and its suburbs. Not by chance, the city has created 71 water ponds for an equivalent of 3,700 acres. The most enterprising city district is Loumbila, where local farmers have self-organized in groups to best optimize investments and increase their visibility to stakeholders interested in supporting their agricultural projects. That’s how the fruit and vegetable initiative of the Loumbila district is now supported by international cooperation programs that have involved several Italian non-profit groups supported by the Association of Foundations and Savings Banks (ACRI).
France is the top high-income country in the 2018 Food Sustainability Index (FSI), which ranks 67 countries’ performance in food system sustainability according to their income group. These countries represent over 90% of global GDP and over four-fifths of the global population. The FSI was developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN) as part of a research programme commissioned by BCFN. The FSI’s 2018 edition focuses particularly on best practices in food sustainability that help to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.
France’s strong showing rests on high scores across the FSI’s three pillars: nutritional challenges, sustainable agriculture, and food loss and waste. Its performance is particularly strong in the food loss and waste category. In a world where a third of all food produced globally is either lost or discarded, according to estimates from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), France has been in the vanguard of policies and measures to reduce such losses, for example via best-practice legislation requiring supermarkets to redistribute leftover food to charities serving poor communities. Rwanda is the top performer among low-income countries. The country’s dietary patterns are characterised by diets that are comparatively low in sugar, meat, saturated fat and sodium, support the country’s high ranking in the nutritional challenges pillar. That said, malnourishment remains a problem, where the country is in the bottom half among low-income countries. Prevalence of undernourishment is high (41.1% of the population, according to FAO data), and prevalence of stunting among children under five years of age remains high. However, Rwanda is the best-performing country from sub-Saharan Africa in terms of micronutrient deficiency. Rwanda also gets high marks for sustainable agricultural practices, such as the sustainability of agricultural water withdrawals on renewable sources. This is crucial because agriculture is responsible for 70% of global freshwater withdrawals.
Thanks in particular to a strong showing in sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges, Colombia is the leading middle-income country in the FSI. Sustainable agriculture, such as water management and conservation, is a particular strength of the country. However, there is still room for improvement in a number of areas, for example almost 60% of adults are overweight. Martin Koehring, managing editor at The Economist Intelligence Unit, added: “Sustainable food systems are vital for achieving the SDGs by 2030. There are strong connections between the SDGs and the three core dimensions of food systems: economic, social and environmental. Our research allows for comparison between countries and food-system indicators and highlights best practices that food-system stakeholders—including policymakers, civil society organisations, the private sector, academia and research, and the media—can use to design roadmaps toward more sustainable food systems and ultimately the SDGs.”