Mark Watts, Executive Director of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, raises an interesting point in a recent post on The Huffington Post blog. He says most citizens probably don't expect their mayors to be involved in policy-making about the future of food. But increasingly they are – and it's essential as urbanization increases. – Phil Bane
When 120 cities around the world responded to Milan Mayor Giuliano Pisapia's call to sign the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact last fall, it made an impact.
"This incredible show of commitment by mayors is an indication of how critical food production and consumption is becoming to protecting our climate, and the health and well-being of urban citizens," wrote Watts.
Momentum continued this week at the EAT Stockholm Food Forum with launch of the C40 Food Systems Network which will partner with the EAT Initiative to help participating cities solve their most pressing food challenges. Among them:
- Climate change – The International Food Policy Research Institute suggests food production accounts for 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Add food distribution and land use and the impact increases to 30%. Today climate change affects both crop production and food prices.
- Food security – Cities can encourage more sustainable and healthy diets, promoting local, seasonal and fresh food. Doing so, Watts points out, can reduce the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.
Mayors have power
Watts lists a number of areas where mayors and cities have power over facets of the food system, which will be preliminary areas of focus for the C40 Food System Network. These include everything from food procurement policies for civic buildings, hospitals, senior housing and the like, to promotion of urban agriculture, community gardens and initiatives to reduce food waste.
You can read more of his ideas on how cities can take an active role in developing more sustainable and equitable food systems here.
How technology helps
There are numerous ways technology is helping combat food insecurity, from using sensors in farm fields to improve crop yields to indoor agriculture in inner cities that relies on data and the cloud. An aquaculture pilot in Masdar City is using seawater to irrigate desert lands for food and fuel production.
In Scotland, a web-based platform enables ordinary citizens to prepare an extra meal for needy seniors in their community. There are a number of apps that target food waste, rerouting leftovers that would otherwise be tossed and getting them to shelters and food banks.