The book

english version

Food policies for sustainable cities
by Andrea Calori and Andrea Magarini

PUBLISHER: Edizioni Ambiente
PUBLISHED: october 2015
PAGES: 200
ISBN 978-88-6627-178-9
FORMAT: 13,2 X 18,5 (Paperback)
PRICE 15,00€


Food: keystone of cities’ sustainability and resilience

Food systems sustainability is strongly influenced by world urbanization: since 2008, more than half of the world’s population lives in a city, which is an ecosystem that depends on other resources to acquire what is needed (energy, water, soil, food, etc.) and to dispose of what is not metabolized (waste, scrap, emissions, etc.). Besides, world urbanization also shapes the imbalances between global wealth production as measured in GDP and the many facets of well-being, sustainability, and the resilience of social and environmental systems against external shocks.

The first part of the book examines the fundamental elements of agro-food cycles, that represent crucial factors of the urban metabolism and its social, economic, and environmental dimensions; these elements constitute the “urban infrastructure,” along with social services, public transportation, health care, education, waste and water management. They are a fundamental component of in the urban life that is inseparable from citizens’ basic rights and needs, individual lifestyles and cultures, the socio-economic structure, and the city’s relationship with the surrounding environment.

As urban infrastructure, food also needs a strategic approach, a Food Policy that adopts a long term vision, encourages the integration of multiple themes and various instruments, promotes multi-actor processes, facilitates these actors’ assumption of joint responsibility, and, to this end, utilizes mechanisms to verify the effects of its actions with respect to its initial vision.


The second part of the book, based on the analysis of one hundred experiences of food urban policies, provides an overview of how to enact a food policy in an urban area. It demonstrates their practical “do-ability” through specific interpretive keys as defined in EStà’s experience with the development of a food policy for the city of Milan ( We review the experiences of Almere, Amsterdam, Bristol, Gent, London, Malmö, Melbourne, Milan, New York, Toronto, San Francisco e Vancouver throughout ten issues (governance, education, waste, access, wellness, environment, agricultural ecosystem, production, business and finance, trade) hoping to connect the Milan experience with its counterparts elsewhere to advance on methods for organizing knowledge and policy by theme related to urban food.

The more in-depth descriptions primarily focus on cases from Europe and North America: with cities that are “mature” in terms of both their development, not only physically but also institutionally and socio-economically and their collaboration between social experiments and institutions. Therefore, less emphasis on the Southern hemisphere, but it is worth remembering how in many African, Asian, and Latin American contexts, the relationship between food and the city is viewed primarily in terms of food security in connection with poverty and local economic development. Many cities from the North and the South of the world analyzed in this book, have underwritten, on October 2015, the Urban Food Policy Pact (, an international agreement launched by the Mayor of Milan, the city of the EXPO dedicated to food security and sustainable development.


The third part of the book outlines the commonalities across the cases studied that constitute the sum of accumulated knowledge and basic ingredients for the construction of urban food policies. They are characterized by a strategic approach to process and content: food as a urban infrastructure, the idea of sustainability as an integral part of this approach, basic needs related to food in a urban context, forms of collaboration between social experiments and institutions in the hope of strengthening and innovating both the practical and the political, instruments for study, assessment and monitoring, the ways in which the necessary knowledge is accumulated for the creation of an urban food policy, the role of local governments, technical experts and representative bodies created specifically to deal with food issues (Food Council).

The last part of the book contains infographics that summarize the primary structural elements and provide an overview of processes to define and implement several examples of urban food policies. The cases selected are exclusively from European and North American cities, along with Melbourne. Besides, some infographics compare the same issue dealt in different parts of the world, instead of concentrating on peculiarities of the single geographic areas, differently from many other research and publications.

This book is a useful base for both policymakers and technicians in developing an urban Food Policy, as well as citizens who intend to upscale grassroot experiences and practices.

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