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CityFood: Food for Resilient Futures


CityFood is ICLEI’s flagship program to accelerate local and regional government action toward sustainable food systems transformation. It spans a number of food-related projects and initiatives across all of ICLEI’s Regional Offices and brings together local and regional governments as well as strategic global and regional partners.


2013: CityFood is born!

ICLEI's global CityFood Program begins its journey at the 2013 Resilient Cities Congress in Bonn, Germany, with the establishment of a partnership between ICLEI and RUAF, marrying ICLEI’s long tradition of working with local and regional governments and RUAF’s decades of expertise in food systems, to serve as the foundations of the ICLEI-RUAF CITYFOOD Network. 


2017: The CITYFOOD Network is launched

2017 sees the consolidation of the ICLEI-RUAF CITYFOOD Network with the goal of supporting the transition to sustainable and resilient food systems in cities and regions by combining networking with training, policy advice, and technical expertise for its participants. Seven initial pioneer cities join the cause, with ICLEI continuing to explore projects and partnerships to further expand the work of the program. 


2018: Expanding network and advocacy engagements: ICLEI calls for mandatory minimum standard for sustainable food procurement

The CITYFOOD Network grows in size, with 27 local governments committing and formalizing their membership. Work across ICLEI’s numerous Regional Offices and with various strategic partners continues. ICLEI offers opportunities for global network exchange through bi-monthly newsletters and webinars, training and workshops in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, and technical expertise through policy guidance and research and develops knowledge products advocating for local government action on food systems. To increase network visibility and global advocacy efforts, ICLEI also participates in numerous global fora, including the Joint Working Sessions with Global and Regional Networks of Local Governments, the Future Policy Award, the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact 4th Annual Gathering and Mayors Summit, and the UNFCCC COP24, among others. At the EcoProcura Conference 2018 in Nijmegen, Netherlands, ICLEI pioneers advocacy for EU mandatory minimum standards for sustainable food procurement - four years later feeding into the EU Framework of Sustainable Food Systems within the EU Farm to Fork Strategy).


2019: CityFood engages in strategic partnerships and projects

To support FAO’s Urban Food Agenda, CITYFOOD partners with FAO and the World Bank to conduct surveys and food supply chain diagnoses. Additionally, as part of the Understanding Innovative Governance for Food, Water, and Energy Nexus in Cities (IFWEN) project, ICLEI conducts nine case studies on Food-Water-Energy Nexus interactions and local Green Blue Infrastructure. These serve to support the understanding and identification of capabilities and potential required for innovative nexus approaches, and lessons for future implementation. 


2020: CityFood launches the #AfricanCITYFOODMonth Campaign, actively engages at WUF10 and calls for a game-changing sustainable school meals agenda

ICLEI-RUAF CITYFOOD Network undergoes restructuring to integrate it into ICLEI’s broader CityFood Program, with a clear mandate: to harness the power of food for resilient futures. CityFood provides practical advice and support to local and regional governments around the world, with the ICLEI Regional Offices leading the program's regional clusters and implementing projects on the ground. 


ICLEI Africa begins its #AfricanCITYFOODMonth campaign to highlight diverse, innovative and evolving African urban food systems. At the 10th World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi, ICLEI CityFood presents and coordinates sessions at the FAO/CEMAS Pavilion. In November, at the 3rd Global Conference SFS Programme with FAO and UN Nutrition, ICLEI CityFood calls for the first time for a "coordinated global framework for action to ensure sustainable and healthy school meals in every school around the world, leaving no child behind." The "call for action" makes it as a game-changing recommendation in the final Outcome Document (One year later, the Global School Meals Coalition let by the WFP and launched at the UNFSS takes on this important goal).


2021: ICLEI CityFood revamps with Triple H framework and engaging visibility toward UNFSS

Since 2021 to date, the network has been advanced exclusively by ICLEI, with RUAF remaining a strategic partner. Recognizing that cities and regions are the key drivers of food systems transformation, ICLEI develops its Triple H approach: Healthy People (facilitating access to healthy and nutritious food), Healthy Landscape (strengthening urban-rural linkages and resilience), and Healthy Climate (building circular food systems and promoting low-carbon infrastructure and value chains) to help cities transition to sustainable food systems by 2030. 


Together with FAO, and in preparation of the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), ICLEI’s CityFood Program conducts Independent Urban Food Systems Dialogues with 26 cities and over 1000 stakeholders around the globe. Additionally, ICLEI publishes its City Practitioners Handbook on Circular Food Systems aimed at equipping local governments with concrete tools to facilitate the transition to circular food systems, and, as a partner and supporter of the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration, continues its advocacy work to put food and farming at the heart of the global response to the climate emergency at UNFCCC COP26. 


2022: High-level engagement at COP27 and several major project wins

At UNFCCC COP27, the revamped CityFood Program and its newly developed website was launched. Building on the successful completion of the partnership with FAO on increasing the engagement of local governments in the UN Food Systems Summit, follow-up agreements are made to continue the collaboration, and ICLEI, as part of the secretariat of the Urban Food Systems Coalition, plays a major role in shaping its strategies and action plans, engaging with national governments, and promoting the Coalition to additional stakeholders, while supporting the expansion and identification of opportunities for circular development for cities in Latin America. Three major European Horizon projects, SchoolFood4Change, AfriFOODLinks and FoodCLIC, are launched. 


2023: 10-year anniversary of ICLEI CityFood

ICLEI’s CityFood Program celebrates 10 years! At present, ICLEI’s CityFood Program serves numerous local and regional governments around the world as a platform for peer-exchange, capacity building, and the promotion of policies and instruments for advancing sustainable and inclusive food systems. With an updated advocacy strategy and various global projects and proposals, ICLEI’s CityFood is continuing to renew its engagement with cities to align with priorities of local governments and global bodies. An overview of ICLEI’s current advocacy initiatives, including with UNFCCC’s COP, can be found here.