Lessons from COVID for the cities of the Mediterranean
Nowadays, when the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting us again, it is more important than ever to create spaces for dialogue so that cities can share their experiences in managing this health and socio-economic crisis. To this end, on 4th November, Tel Aviv-Yafo and València held the regional webinar “Mediterranean Cities: What have we learned from COVID-19″, the fourth regional forum organised this year by the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact.
Barcelona, Montpellier, Mouans-Sartoux and Palermo also participated in the event. The host and guest cities explained where they stand, what the impact of COVID-19 has been on each city’s food systems, how they have dealt with the emergency and how to prepare for future waves.
Collective awareness and caring for small consumers
The common denominator between the cities was the cooperation between the public sector, the private sector and the community. In terms of food security, the most common initiatives were the provision of vouchers, food parcels and urban gardens for communities to produce their own food. Emphasis was also placed on awareness-raising, promoting communication campaigns to make citizens aware of the importance of eating local foods, healthy habits and following a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables.
The essential role of the authorities and all those involved in the food sector, especially small-scale producers, who have worked hard to supply communities even in the worst moments of the crisis, was also highlighted at all times.
After the participation of all those convened, it was concluded that the pandemic highlighted the weaknesses of the food systems and the problems faced by the less advantaged populations. However, there was one positive aspect: in the midst of the crisis, a new type of governance is emerging, bringing together the administration, the scientific community and food security specialists.
Maria Partalidou, professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece), makes it clear: networks matter. “Food systems in Salonikki, as in any city, can be resilient only if the public sector and private sector alongside with the rest of society work together“. She adds: “Everything is connected: food, health and culture. If we don´t keep this in mind, I think we are probably going to our old habits and bad policy decisions”.
In the same vein, Giaime Berti, President of the Cibo di Livorno Council, highlighted the importance of food education and pointed out that “when we talk about changes in the food systems is important to change the food supply to a local food supply, but we also need a change in the culture (…) towards a more just, healthy and sustainable food system“.
The new role of the consumer
On the other hand, the role of the consumer was highlighted and the purchase of food was described as a political act that harms the future of our food systems, stressing the importance of cities in educating their community in terms of sustainable development. The group of cities concluded that the youngest population will be the one that will shape the future of our food systems and our planet.
The moderator of the event, Florence Egal, an independent expert on sustainable food systems, highlighted the efforts of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, the work carried out by the signatory cities and the importance of sharing experiences through this network with other cities, so that they can count on the help of the members of the Pact. “It is very urgent that we link forces when moving towards the 2021 Food Systems Summit”.
On behalf of CEMAS, we would like to thank the committee organising the regional webinars being held by the Milan Food Policy Pact and the participating cities, which have made the meeting a space for critical, diverse and creative dialogue. It has been an honour to share our experiences and knowledge, and to be inspired by the initiatives implemented in other cities in the region regarding the issues we are currently facing.