Sustainable Urban Food Policies: Pioneering Change in European Cities

Cities worldwide are at the forefront of one of the most critical challenges of our time: food. With the urban population projected to reach 66% by 2050, sustainable urban food policies have become increasingly crucial.

In “The Urban Food Revolution”, the new episode of Slow Food, The Podcast! we walked you through three European cities—Bordeaux in France, Birmingham in England, and Groningen in the Netherlands— that take center stage as they collaborate with local stakeholders to tackle food system challenges sustainably.

To do so, we interviewed five women working as volunteers or officers in their city’s municipalities to improve citizens’ well-being and ensure everyone has access to fresh and healthy food.

The Power of Connections

Apolline Beyris-Duvigneau, food officer for the municipality of Bordeaux

Bordeaux, situated on the coast of France, started its sustainable food strategy in 2017 to combat rising levels of food poverty. The city has brought together 400 stakeholders through a Food Policy Council, fostering collaboration and collective projects to address various aspects of the food system.

Apolline Beyris-Duvigneau, food officer for the municipality of Bordeaux, explained: “We have many people in the food sector in the area doing the same things, but we think that if we help them to connect, speak and work together, we can have a bigger impact and we need that.”

We are all in this together

Apolline and the city of Bordeaux are not alone in stressing the importance of collaboration.

“As a municipality, we can’t do the transition to sustainable food alone, and we don’t want to do it alone. That is why we are talking to all actors from the food chain”, said Hiltje van der Wal, the food officer for the municipality of Groningen.

Hilde Lavell, the food officer for the municipality of Groningen

In Groningen, known as the capital of the North in the Netherlands, citizen involvement and bottom-up initiatives are deeply ingrained. By providing spaces for community gardens and encouraging citizen-led projects, the city ensures active participation and empowers its inhabitants in shaping the food system.

“We are trying to make our city more “eatable”. People can use municipal property to grow food, or come together and cook.” 

Citizens Sowing Change

Meanwhile, Birmingham, in England, is facing the challenge of amplifying citizen voices in decision-making. Through organizations like Slow Food Birmingham, citizens actively contributed to the city’s food strategy, leading to the development of innovative projects such as diverting food waste and establishing local food hubs.

Kate Smith, volunteer at Slow Food Birmingham.

“We want to introduce people to a circular system, which is “make, use, repurpose, grow, use, etc”. Hopefully, more and more people will start thinking about what part of the circle they can create so that we can all start living a more sustainable life.” – Kate Smith, volunteer at Slow Food Birmingham.


Get involved!

Throughout the episode, a powerful message resonates: the crucial role of citizens in driving the food revolution.

Get inspired on how to change your city’s food system, from participating in food policy councils to attending workshops.

Listen now!

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