Recovery Dialogues in Latin America 4: Sustainable Food Supplies for Vulnerable Communities

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Written by Resilient Cities Network
Monday, 23 November 2020


The cities that participated in this fourth dialogue are Cali (Colombia), Quito (Ecuador), and Montevideo (Uruguay) accompanied by an expert in the field, Ana María Huaita Alfaro, researcher and facilitator for urban projects in markets, food, and planning. The session was moderated by Luciana Cardoso, Consultant on Programs and Impact at Resilient Cities Network.

The health emergency imposed by COVID-19 has brought to light a series of risks and challenges that urban food systems face in order to provide safe, continuous and accessible food supplies, particularly in a context of lockdown and social distancing. Cities should take this moment of health emergency as an opportunity to refocus the fight against poverty and inequality through the lens of food security by integrating a systemic, territorial, and multisectoral approach. This fourth dialogue counted with the presence of three cities in Latin America – Cali, Quito and Montevideo.

The main challenges and opportunities identified during this session are the following:


According to data collected by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean has been on the rise for the past years, reaching 47,7 million people in 2019 with numbers expected to rise even more due to the consequences of COVID-19[1]. Not only is the right to food recognized as a Human Right, but malnutrition and hunger may also negatively impact other social areas of life, such as school dropouts, unemployment, violence, and social vulnerability in general. The key takeaways from the session include:

1. Place food as a Human Right and a key factor to overcome poverty;

2. Create community kitchens as a strategy to deliver safe food;

3. Set forth a principle of co-responsibility and solidarity;

4. Understand food as an opportunity for citizens to interact and to the development of community resilience;

5. Grasp the importance of multi-stakeholder collaboration and trust networks;

6. Understand female leadership as a key to community resilience with a citizen focus;

7. Promote community surveillance and monitoring mechanisms.

For example, the program “Alimentando Sonrisas” is a part of Cali’s strategy to fight hunger through community kitchens. It provides food to the most vulnerable population, while also implementing strategies of psychosocial care.


Food security is intrinsically linked to the food chain: from food production and processing to marketing, consumption, and waste management. Furthermore, an important segment of the most vulnerable population depends on jobs associated with the food sector. It is, therefore, necessary to strategically tackle the elements that are part of this chain. The key takeaways from the session include:

1. Strengthen logistics and distribution networks to guarantee continuity in the supply system;

2. Implement short food supply chains – alternative system which aims at decreasing the number of intermediaries between the producer and the consumer;

3. Explore opportunities for urban-rural linkage;

4. Use a circular economy as a key strategy in the recovery, rethinking food value in order to decrease the amount of waste;

5. Consolidate territorial productive units.

For example, the urban agriculture program named AGRUPAR in Quito works in urban, periurban, and rural areas above all with a focus on strengthening urban-rural governance on the food system. The program has 1,520 small urban farms with a provision of 11 tons of food a week.


In a context of social distance and lockdown measures food security emerges as one of the main agendas for local governments, who, together with social organizations, must build a fertile collaborative environment that allows food to be delivered promptly to where it is most needed. The key takeaways from the session include:

1. Boost the development of responses and policies at a system level;

2. Assess urban risk reduction systems through the lens of food security;

3. Revitalize food-related urban environments;

4. Recognize the actors and map out the supply chain.

For example, Quito has successfully mapped out a food network within the city that includes big producers and providers, distributors, establishments, small neighborhood shops among others.


* This content is the product of a series of dialogues organized by the Resilient Cities Network and CAF, through the Cities with a Future Initiative, to exchange knowledge and good practices among municipalities and key actors in the regional urban ecosystem of Latin American and the Caribbean, aimed at mitigating the effects of the pandemic.

Download full document (Spanish only)

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