Urban Food Agenda

Transforming urban food systems during COVID-19: Key Insights from 29th July FAO Global Webinar


On Wednesday 29 July 2020, FAO hosted the Online Event Urban Food Systems and COVID-19 – Key Results from an FAO Global Survey.

About 350 attendees worldwide participated in this FAO global webinar which presented the results of a global survey of municipal responses to the COVID-19 emergency through interventions in urban and peri-urban food systems. Experiences and lessons learned from local and national governments and city networks were also presented and discussed.

“One of the priority areas of FAO’s new comprehensive response and recovery programme on COVID-19 is the transformation of food systems, where the urban food agenda is one of the reference frameworks that work to ensure the nutrition and sustainability of food systems”, said Máximo Torero, Chief Economist of FAO, at the opening of the event.

Jamie Morrison, Director of the Food Systems and Food Safety Division of FAO, presented the main results of the questionnaire survey, which are included in a policy document available in three languages (English, French, Spanish). There were 861 responses from 77 countries to the global survey, with 57% of respondents being from local governments. “Local governments are key actors in facing the disruptions caused by COVID-19. Ninety per cent of cities have implemented at least one measure to ensure that vulnerable people are able to access food”, Morrison mentioned. Governance, inter-sectoral coordination, and strengthening the resilience of food systems and individuals were key elements in the responses.

Julio Berdegué, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean highlighted the shifting nature of the rural-urban interface and its implications for the food system, as well as the potential for the food system to strengthen the rural-urban connectivity and promote not only rural but overall poverty reduction and economic growth. He highlighted the need for “local regulations and programmes to promote healthy and sustainable diets in an inclusive manner”.  He also highlighted the need for more resources and other support to local governments in order to play their key role.  "Local governments that are essential to face the impacts of the pandemic on food systems are working with tiny budgets," said Berdegué at the end of his speech.

Representatives of local authorities and senior managers dealing with urban food issues shared their concrete experiences in dealing with disruptions to food systems during the pandemic. Ms Kate MacKenzie (New York City, USA) highlighted that transparency, consultation, flexibility, data, and mobilization of all parts of society were key elements in building food policy responses for vulnerable people. Ms Anna Scavuzzo (Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, Milan, Italyunderlined the importance of preparing a long-term recovery based on innovative resilience plans with renewed food systems and emphasized MUFPP’s efforts to enhance the alliance among cities as well as with international and non-governmental partners.  Mr Rabindra Sri Barua (Dhaka, Bangladesh) presented the response measures put in place, and underlined how the selection of beneficiaries as well as coordination with national programmes was critical. For Ms Jessica Huaman (Lima, Peru), including citizens in the response was key in order to build appropriate actions for vulnerable people as well as the key role of women in managing parts of the food distribution programme. Mr Oumar Ba (President of city network in Senegal)emphasized the role of local authorities and the need for sustainable solutions and a national vision in building back better food systems. Mr Carlos Eduardo Campo Cuello (Colombia) explained how the national government encourages the articulation of strategies at the territorial level with all stakeholders to promote prosperity and inclusion.

Furthermore, Mr Paul Currie (ICLEI Africa) reminded participants that alliances and exchanges among cities are more critical than ever in facing the crisis and in building back better urban food systems.

During the Q&A session, the participants highlighted the importance of promoting the systemic approach, establishing inclusive food governance mechanisms and fostering collaboration at all levels to build back better.  The event was moderated by Mr Kostas Stamoulis, Senior Advisor on Food Security and Nutrition.

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