Local governments have played a fundamental role in the crisis caused by Covid-19. The Mayor of València, Joan Ribó, made this statement during his speech at the virtual meeting organized by UCLG (United Cities and Local Governments), UN-Habitat, Metropolis and CEMAS, under the slogan Food Systems: Lessons from a pandemic. Ribó has assured that “local governments have been an essential tool and have acted efficiently, with closeness, sensitivity and empathy when making decisions aimed at containing, for example, the food shortages in their urban centres“.
The meeting, moderated by the Secretary General of UCLG, Emilia Saiz, involved representatives of local and regional bodies and organizations from various parts of the world, who pooled their experience in managing the crisis caused by the coronavirus. The Mayor of València explained that, during confinement, the City Council had carried out many actions together with the civil society, such as the distribution of food, hygiene and health kits that was carried out alongside the Red Cross. He also highlighted the assistance provided to the most vulnerable families through school meal grants, the support for Valencian farmers and the strengthening of sanitary controls in local markets.
Representing the city of Milan, Andrea Magarini explained that a centralised system was organized with municipal employees and volunteers for the distribution of food, as well as the distribution of vouchers for necessities. In the city of Milan, just like in other cities, there has been an increase in the consumption of fruit and vegetables during the pandemic, as well as a significant increase in online purchases. From Ecuador’s Azuay province, Patricio Abad explained the “Solidarity Baskets” project (Canastas solidarias), aiming to ensure food access for an entire population that has also suffered significant economic losses.
Maite Rodriguez of the Women and Habitat Network of Latin America and the Caribbean has focused on the seed banks run by groups of women on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala because, in her opinion, “the secret of a production system are the seeds”. Kobie Brand from ICLEI advocated reconnecting with sources of food and relating them back to nature to have a healthier diet. On behalf of the FAO, Marcela Villarreal indicated that the main challenge during the pandemic has been to ensure access to food for the most vulnerable: “Any response to a pandemic has to take into account the equality-inequality relationship”.
UN-Habitat’s Remy Sietchiping also participated in the session; for him, the coronavirus crisis has shown that it is essential to pay attention to all elements of the distribution chains, and that it is also imperative that no one is left behind when it comes to technology.
The director of CEMAS, Vicente Domingo, closed the round of speeches by stating that “eating well is an act of responsibility because it means helping yourself, your family, your city, the planet…” and he added that we cannot let this crisis pass without learning something for the future of food systems.