Read the latest news and developments for food systems and urban environments.
EAT works with cities across the globe to collaborate on the great food transformation—for sustainable, healthy and equitable systems—at a local level.
Read our summary of recommendations for cities here.
Why do we work with Cities?
Nearly 80% of all the food produced in the world is consumed in urban areas. Cities are home to an increasing percentage of the planet. They host microcosms of so many food systems realities, and often have more political agility than nations. Whether on a policy or community level, from a citizen or a business perspective, the possibilities of food systems transformation are ripe in cities. Many are already in the lead of showing us what food systems of the future could look like.
At EAT, we know that what we eat matters for the health of both people and planet. The types of food we eat, the ways we produce and transport it, and the amounts wasted all have major impacts on human health and environmental sustainability. Cities are critical sites for ensuring we meet the Paris Agreement and our Global Goals. We work with cities and local governments to focus on how global challenges take shape in urban environments and drive relevant local action.
Places for change
With the vast majority of food consumption happening in urban areas, the choices that city authorities make on procurement, managing systems for food loss and waste, and designing and regulating the urban food environment all represent great opportunities for system change and massive investment. Their power can shape markets and influence private sector responses to the growing demand for sustainable and healthy food.
Local action, global impact
Today, cities are home to over half the world’s population. By 2050, more than two-thirds of the globe will be living in urban areas—that’s nearly 10 billion people. At a time of rapid urbanization, cities are becoming increasingly important agents of change including on policies and action aimed at providing access to healthy diets for all. Getting food systems right at the urban level will be an important way for countries to turn global commitments into local realities and fundamental to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals while limiting global warming to 1.5°C (as per the latest science).
What are the food challenges experienced in Cities?
Rising globalization and urbanization have rapidly shifted urban consumption patterns around the world. With unhealthy diets now the leading cause of death globally and a major contributor to climate change, a shift towards healthier and more sustainable eating can have many benefits for residents and the economy.
Urban food environments as risk factors for poor health
Many city-dwellers are experiencing undernutrition: hidden hunger, and overweight and obesity simultaneously, contributing to soaring rates of diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. At the same time, many urban populations—particularly in informal settlements and low-income areas—experience acute hunger and malnutrition due to limited access to affordable, healthy food. Modern urban food environments have the potential to improve access to nutritious foods. By making healthy foods affordable, available, and attractive for all citizens, cities can mitigate health risks while cutting down on the social and economic costs of malnutrition, while collectively improving biodiversity, our climate and the environment.
Urban consumption, a major contributor to climate change
In 2019, the global C40 cities network, the University of Leeds and the built environment firm Arup launched a study showing how urban consumption is a key driver of greenhouse gas emissions through worldwide supply chains. Food was identified as one of the main drivers of urban consumption-based emissions, at 13% of total emissions produced in the largest cities in 2017. If no action is taken, this figure could rise to 38% by 2050.
How do we work with Cities?
Urbanization affects every aspect of our food systems, and successful urbanization requires a systems approach. At EAT, we believe that facilitating dialog across cities and bringing city voices to national and international processes is key for exchanging best practices and inspiring each other to shape the healthy and sustainable urban food policies, environments and systems of tomorrow.
Supporting evidence-based action in Cities
The EAT-Lancet report is the first full scientific review of what constitutes a healthy diet from a sustainable food system, and which actions can support and speed up food system transformation. You can find a summary of our recommendations for cities here.
Stories of our work
- Milan Urban Policy Food Pact (MUFPP)
The MUFPP is the first international convention addressing urban food systems, currently signed by over 200 mayors. EAT has served on the evaluation committee for the Milan Pact Awards since 2016 and has participated in the annual Milan Pact Mayors’ Summit.
- Shifting Urban Diets
The 3-year project, funded by Climate-KIC, works with the City of Copenhagen and partners to translate the findings of the EAT-Lancet report at a city level—moving from global science to local action and interventions. Over the long run, the project aims to replicate and scale the methodology to other cities.
- EAT-C40 Food Systems Network
The Food Systems Network, delivered in partnership with C40, supports city efforts to create and implement integrated food policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase resiliency and deliver improved health and nutrition outcomes. Launched in 2016 at the EAT Stockholm Food Forum, and building on the activities of the MUFPP, the Network now boasts 50 member cities spread across five continents.
- CHEW – Children Eating Well
As part of CHEW, an ongoing collaboration between EAT and UNICEF, EAT contributed to the development of UNICEF’s handbook on child-responsive urban planning and a joint Policy Brief, outlining useful concepts and tools to create thriving and equitable cities for children.
EAT is a partner in FoodSHIFT2030, an EU Horizon 2020 initiative that aims to foster citizen-driven innovation for food systems transformation.
More resources for urban food system transformation
- C40 Cities
- The George Institute for Global Health
- Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition (GloPAN)
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
- International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
- European Commission
- Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)
- Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition
C40 Good Food Cities Declaration
14 cities commit to sustainable food policies that will help address the global climate emergency.
Can Cities Change the World Through What They Eat?
Shifting to healthier and more sustainable diets will benefit people and the planet – and build prosperity
How Do We Plan Cities For Children?
UNICEF has published a handbook, outlining strategies to create healthy, safe, inclusive, green and prosperous cities.
E6: How Cities Change Eating Habits
Tom Arnold and Emily Norford on the challenges the urban diet poses to health and the planet, but most importantly on the solutions that can fix them.
EAT-Lancet Commission Brief for Cities
Food Insecurity: Cities at the Frontline
Milan’s Mayor Giuseppe Sala says accelerating urbanization is a threat to food security, but thinks cities can also be the answer to the problem. EAT spoke to the leader of the world’s only declaration on urban food policies.