Speaker Series #14 Urban Eats: Cities Tackling Food Resilience

Dec 2022

About the Session

The Speakers

About this session

The economic recession and supply chain-disruption caused by Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the global fallout from the Ukrainian war, have made global food security and food affordability a growing concern. In fact, up to 71 million people from the poorest countries in the world are projected to be facing severe poverty as a result of the disruptions and soaring prices in food and energy supply chains caused by the war in Ukraine. These threats are further exacerbated by embedded food access inequities and the rise in severe climate events affecting food systems. 

As major food consumers, cities have an opportunity to support the development of more resilient and regenerative food systems. Urban Eats, a campaign launched by the Resilient Cities Network, seeks to mobilize its network of nearly 100 cities to take action to improve food circularity and sustainable waste management. By looking at urban food security through a circular and resilience lens, cities can see the critical steps they should take to affect change. The campaign calls on donors and investors to support the network and its cities to develop and implement circular food solutions towards more resilient urban food systems. During our 14th session of Cities on the Frontline 2022, we invited experts to present on the importance of strengthening our food systems and the ways cities are innovating to become better prepared to respond to present and future shocks and stresses. 

Eike Sindlinger, the Global Leader for Food and Agriculture Systems at Arup, started of the session by addressing a couple of important questions, why is it important to strengthen the resilience of urban food systems, why now? And what can be done? Food is essential for our survival and will always be, meaning that everyone needs a reliable food supply, and we cannot transition out of it. However, currently, food is a nonrenewable and non-circular resource in a system that cannot be sustained for long due to long and complex supply chains that are vulnerable to disruptions, large percentages of food waste and food insecurity. Now, at the forefront of these food related challenges, Eike continued, are cities, which consume 70% of food but produce only a small percentage and rely heavily on rural areas. This reality, combined with recent shocks and stresses including climate change, covid and war have exposed significant vulnerabilities in our systems that must be addressed. While all these things are true, Eike, also affirms, food has been recognized as a big issue worldwide, for instance at COP27, which will lead to action through resilience and circularity hand in hand. 

Following Eike’s introductory presentation, Mark Scott, a Critical Infrastructure Specialist at the Resilience Bureau of the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, took the floor to share the experience of Washington D.C. in relation to food resilience. Mark started off by noting that the angle of his work is emergency management, and through this angle the city has identified essential commodities that need to be protected to be better prepared to face catastrophes. Of these commodities, they decided to focus particularly on food systems due to its extreme vulnerablility to disruptions. Some of the specific challenges that D.C. faces in terms of food are extensive food chains, multiple sources for obtaining food that need to be taken into consideration (ex. Supermarkets, hospitals, high schools, etc.), the need to coordinate and collaborate with multiple partners and stakeholders, and of course food insecurity. Based on these challenges, Mark continued, the city has set some important steps to follow, including mapping systems and vulnerabilities, preparing for food supply disruptions by working across jurisdictions, growing the local food economy, addressing food waste and strengthening infrastructure including roads and bridges. 

Finally, José Antonio Vazquez Acevedo, the Coordinator at the Zero Hunger Coordination of the Directorate of Social Protection and Human Development in the State of Nuevo Leon, took the floor to share the Hambre Cero or Zero Hunger Initiative that is being implemented in Nuevo Leon. This strategy is multisectoral, crosscutting and sustainable and is aligned with local and international development agendas with the objective of eradicating hunger and food waste by 2030. For more context, Jose Antonio shared that the agreement for the initiative was signed in May of 2022, and it defined the base for actions and perations of the program that will be carried out under the New Route Social Policy whose fifth pillar focused on Nourishment. Following this signing, Hambre Zero, started implementing 13 projects through 10 focused technical committees, some of them include, food aid, accompaniment to development of capacities and projects, harvest recovery at any stage of marketing, and the creation of a Zero Hunger passport campaign which has been very well received by the general population. 

One big takeaway from this session is that cities are at the forefront of food related challenges, and it is imperative that they start taking steps now to build resilience for the future of our cities, through education and collaboration. 

Eike Sindlinger
Global Leader Food and Agriculture Systems, Arup

“Now, the question really is, why do we do this now? The shocks we’ve seen this year, I think, have really exposed the vulnerability of our food systems.”

Mark Scott
Critical Infrastructure Specialist, Resilience Bureau, DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency

“We looked at past large-scale disasters that have happened around the world and we know that large catastrophes like that can have devastating effects on our ability to get the things we need for our daily life and our survival, so we wanted to understand what this looked like, and we started by looking at food systems.”

José Antonio Vazquez Acevedo
Coordinator, Zero Hunger Coordination, Directorate of Social Protection and Human Development, State of Nuevo Leon

“In Zero Hunger, we believe that great opportunities to help others don’t come frequently but the small ones surround us every day. And today we are sure we can transform this reality. The task is big, but what makes us unique as a strategy is that we believe in the power of collaboration”

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