Food for cities

Urban food policy for an inclusive, integrated and sustainable development of cities - Milan, Italy

junio 2017

URBACT Programme

Mise en œuvre du Pacte de Milan, protocole internationale engageant les villes à un développement plus soutenable via la prisme de l’alimentation. Relance du marché historique et d’une ferme péri-urbaine comme épicentres de l’innovation.


Population growth in cities brings many challenges to municipalities, such as providing food in a sustainable and equal way, reducing food waste, promoting healthy diets and purchasing food which respects the environment and workers’ dignity. To overcome these issues, Milan (IT) launched in 2015 the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, an international protocol focusing on food policies aiming at engaging cities in a more sustainable urban development. Thanks to the Pact, Milan experienced the regeneration of suburban areas of the city, among which the historical Lorenteggio market, which became a social integration centre, and the Cascina Nosedo farmhouse, that will be turned into a place for innovation, fostering entrepreneurship and peri-urban agriculture.

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The solutions offered by the good practice

The practice presents an integrated, holistic and sustainable solution to different problems experienced by the city of Milan, by fostering the regeneration of suburbs, the promotion of open innovation, entrepreneurship, innovation policy and labour, by reducing food waste, promoting healthy diets, encouraging the purchase of food produced in an environmentally respectful way, and by respecting human rights and workers’ dignity. It is an integrated practice because food turns out to be the main changing factor of suburban areas and society. The Pact leads to concrete actions including the restructuring of some peripheral areas of the city of historical importance (i.e. Cascina Nosedo and Lorenteggio market), and the implementation of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, the commitment to the coordination of international food policy which has been subscribed by 137 cities since its launch. The pact aims at making the city more sustainable, and addressed the urban cycle of food (production, processing, logistics, distribution, consumption, and waste) following these priorities: ensure healthy food and sufficient drinking water as a primary element for the population, promote the sustainability of the food system and consumer awareness of healthy, safe, culturally appropriate, sustainable food produced and distributed with respect for human rights and the environment, the fight against waste, and the support and promotion of scientific agri-food research.

Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

The practice of the City of Milan tackles the challenge of sustainable urban living over an integrated approach to solve different problems of the city. In the last years, our city showed to be a transforming metropolitan area increasingly dedicated to environmental protection, nutritional awareness, social justice and sustainability. However, if “thought food” is a key component of Italian culture, a sustainable strategy on local food systems was still lacking. In the course of Universal Expo 2015, Milan therefore started to develop specific policies targeted on the theme of food as strategic asset for urban local policies. In fact, by promoting the MUFPP, the City of Milan adopted a shared and coordinated food policy, engaging other signatory cities towards a more sustainable and fair urban development. It is evident that food is the key driver of every action presented in this best practice: food for the regeneration of suburban areas focusing on its valorisation as a factor of change, for the promotion of innovative entrepreneurship targeting the agri-food sector in particular, and food as means of fostering international cooperation, and sustainable and fair urban policies.

Based on a participatory approach

A quadruple helix approach was adopted by the City of Milan to confront the challenges presented by the good practice, processing a multi-level governance model.

The stakeholders involved in the actions related to the implementation of the food policy and urban regeneration are mostly local actors with a solid experience in food and management, such as: Cariplo foundation, a private philanthropic grant-providing organisation; Milan Catering, which provides food for the city’s school canteens; Metropolitana Milanese, responsible for public water supply; the Milanese Agricultural District, which established a special agricultural cooperative consortium to promote agricultural activities and support SMEs in the food sector; Parco Tecnologico Padano (PTP Science and Technology Park), the leading Italian Science and Technology Park operating in the agro-food sector and its incubator Alimenta; the University of Milan and Milan Polytechnic University, providing both scientific and academic support; Cineca, Avanzi Srl and Impattozero Srl involved as scientific partners; Future Food Institute as developer of food fab-labs blending culinary tools with 3D printers; two charities, Sungal and La Strada Social Cooperative; and the cultural association Dynamosopio, involved in the regeneration of Lorenteggio market, implementing activities of cultural and social interest for the people living in that suburban area.

What difference has it made?

Thanks to this good practice, the City of Milan improved its administrative procedures and problem-solving strategies with an integrative method. In fact, the municipality enhanced its approach in facing urban issues by starting to analyse problems, then implementing an integrated approach to solving these issues through the involvement of different levels of local government, actors and stakeholders that could provide support to find appropriate solutions. Through the development of the local food policy, the promotion and signature of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, an innovative model of governance was introduced in order to make the City more sustainable, promoting the values of social inclusion, environmental sustainability, fair trade, decentralised cooperation, change of life habits and the fight against poverty. In addition, the practice shows the potentiality of food policies in improving some needy districts of the city, regenerating urban areas (i.e Cascina Nosedo farmhouse as the future new hub of the area), and fostering the entrepreneurial development of innovative agro-food SMEs and start-ups.

Why should other European cities use it?

The good practice of Milan could be of great value and importance for other European cities, because it tackles common urban problems and issues experienced by a wide range of municipalities throughout Europe, proposing concrete and sustainable solutions through an integrated urban approach. Moreover, the practice raised awareness on challenges and opportunities of urban food policy, underlining the importance of food waste reduction, the promotion of healthy diets, the purchase of food produced in a sustainable way, and the respect of human rights and worker dignity. The regeneration of suburban areas is a common challenge of many European cities where Milan’s good practice could be also applied. Similarly, the valorisation of food as changing factor for the development of local innovative enterprises is an important asset for cities, leading to a smart growth that improves the life of citizens. All actions related to the good practice focus on concrete problems experienced by cities, giving a practical answer to these issues in an integrated and sustainable approach. Some good practices of food policies have already been successfully developed by MUFPP signatory cities, as shown in the enclosed booklet “MUFPP Good Practice”, in particular for general healthy nutrition and a careful management of resources to avoid food waste.

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