Overline: Study by the Franco-German Forum for the Future
Headline: How Local Food Can Help Save the World

Food is an important lever in the social-ecological transformation. It is also an everyday issue that is easy to communicate to the public. Municipalities in Germany and France have recognized the potential of innovative local policies and have introduced novel approaches to making local food systems more sustainable. In doing so, though, they are encountering structural barriers that cannot be overcome at the municipal level. The Franco-German Forum for the Future has researched the opportunities and obstacles of local nutritional change and brought engaged municipalities from both countries into exchange with each other.

Essen Mittag Kantine Selservice lokale Produzenten
Eine ökologische und regionale Lebensmittelversorgung gelingt, sobald Partnerschaften mit lokalen Anbietern gestärkt und lokale Produktionen unterstützt werden. Shutterstock/ Riderfoot

Proposals for action to accelerate the transformation of local food systems

Working with experts from academia, public administrations and civil society, the Forum has also produced recommendations for “prioritizing the development of local and sustainable food systems”, which set out five proposals for action by national governments. A new study by the Forum provides background material for the recommendations. Taking Mouans-Sartoux and other municipalities as examples, the study highlights the potential of sustainable local food policies.
The authors find that an environmentally friendly and regional food supply is possible if partnerships with local actors are strengthened, and local producers receive support. The food policy in Mouans-Sartoux proves how holistic policies that serve the general interest can make residents identify more strongly with their municipality. Thanks to active local policymaking, almost 60 per cent of the Mouans-Sartoux residents who were surveyed for the study rated their quality of life higher than that in neighbouring municipalities. Mouans-Sartoux, say the authors, shows that municipalities can achieve a great deal.

However, they also point out that there is more than one model for successful change: municipalities can act through regulations (such as laws governing public procurement), support (funding and awareness-raising measures) or leading by example (via the food served in municipal canteens). The important thing appears to be that the models are flexible enough to adapt to the local circumstances and provide space for experimenting with local innovations. The examples given are intended to serve as inspiration. The authors recommend using leverage from specific projects and maintaining a holistic focus, as individual actions are not generally strong enough to change the system. Experience on the ground shows that projects often lead urban societies and municipal authorities to act even before a fully developed municipal food strategy is in place.

An appeal to the French and German governments

The experience from Mouans-Sartoux shows that individual building blocks can come together over time to form a coherent action plan. To strengthen the potential of these actions and multiply similar approaches in other municipalities, the Forum calls on the French and German governments to implement and develop innovative local food strategies, and to improve the relevant legal and financial frameworks for municipalities. It stresses the importance of maintaining or increasing the autonomy of municipalities, as their staff know the local situation and are best placed to assess the needs of a community and its residents. If rules are imposed top-down, such as by national legislatures, municipalities might not accept them, as France’s laws on canteen catering show. Instead, it is a question of creating helpful national frameworks without restricting local initiatives or actions.

The authors also recommend developing multi-city networks to facilitate learning. The Forum’s work with local initiatives regularly shows the importance of external input as a way of accelerating transformations with mutual support.

To learn more, read the full study (in German)

Watch the video (in French and German):


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