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Cavallini S., Soldi R. (2020) “The role of local and regional authorities in making food systems more sustainable”

Committente: European Committee of the Regions. 
Periodo: 2020
URL: The role of local and regional authorities in making food systems more sustainable

This study investigates food policy governance structures and approaches at the local and regional levels which are used to make territorial food systems more sustainable. The aim is twofold: 1) to understand the role of European local and regional authorities (LRAs) in territorial food system governance and 2) to outline LRAs’ contribution to the European Commission’s Farm to Fork strategy (COM(2020) 381 final). In 2017, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) adopted the opinion ‘Towards a sustainable EU food policy that creates jobs and growth in Europe’s Regions and Cities’. The opinion expresses the need for a comprehensive EU food policy ‘promoting more sustainable production and consumption patterns, establishing a link across different policy areas, including, among others, food production, agriculture, environment, health, consumer policy, employment and rural development, and creating jobs and growth’ (CoR, 2017). It also underlines the need to support the shift to more sustainable patterns through governance structures such as local food councils and local development partnerships as well as through new bottom-up initiatives such as the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP). On 20 May 2020, the European Commission (EC) published ‘A Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system’ (EC, 2020). The strategy is a first step to fill the gap of an overarching EU food policy framework. By 2023, a legislative proposal will follow in order to set a framework for sustainable food systems while ensuring policy coherence at all levels. The legislative framework will require the adoption of common definitions, the mainstreaming of sustainability in all food-related policies and the identification of responsibilities of the actors concerned with food systems (EC, 2020). The Farm to Fork (F2F) Strategy sets the basis for the transformation of food chains across the EU according to sustainability criteria. From a territorial perspective, it acknowledges that the transition to sustainable food systems ‘requires a collective approach involving public authorities at all levels of governance (including cities, rural and coastal communities) private-sector actors across the food value chain, non-governmental organisations, social partners, academics and citizens’ (EC, 2020). It also underlines that ‘a transition to sustainability of the food system will change the economic fabric of many EU regions and their patterns of interactions’ (EC, 2020). This study provides evidence that local and regional public authorities in some cities, rural and coastal/island areas have already initiated efforts for the transition of their food systems to more sustainable patterns. They have envisioned the necessary changes in their territories’ economic fabric, have mobilised necessary actors and resources for implementation, and have used a range of diverse approaches to govern these changes. The concept of ‘sustainable food system’ implies transforming the system model from a linear to a circular one. In terms of outcomes, a sustainable food system (SFS) provides safe, nutritious and healthy food for the current and the future generations of a given territory; provides food security without harming the environment; is robust and resilient with respect to a wider context which may not be sustainable; and is ‘sustainable in social and economic terms, resilient to price shocks and other crises, and responsive to social inequalities and other forms of injustice’ (SAPEA, 2020). Therefore, we consider territorial food governance approaches that improve, or plan to improve, the sustainability of food systems in one or more of the components of the traditional linear model ‘produce-process-consume-waste’. These approaches have, or plan to have, a positive impact on the environment and/or the economy and/or the society (including health). In addition, we consider only those approaches that are led, or importantly contributed to, by public local and/or regional authorities. Finally, we classify these approaches against a governance typology in order to emphasise the role of a local or regional government as a regulator, an implementer, a partner and/or a facilitator. It is observed that these approaches are not confined to rural areas or to a ruralurban cooperation dimension. They are also commonly found in cities with the aim of ‘exploiting urban challenges and opportunities for sustainable food production and biodiversity in urban and peri-urban areas’ (Donkers, 2013). Likewise, it is found that citizens are increasingly part of the transition process of food systems to more sustainable patterns, and there is an evident trend to include citizens’ representatives in food systems’ governance structures. Part 1 of this study presents 20 examples of territorial food policy governance structures/approaches from nine EU Member States. Part 2 concludes on the role of LRAs in making food systems more sustainable and on their current contribution to the implementation of the F2F Strategy. Part 2 also includes comments on the functioning and suitability of the governance structures/approaches reviewed in Part 1 and formulates recommendations accordingly.