EU Project Releases Policy Brief On Urban Food Sharing Governance Barriers


Food sharing is increasingly making its way in cities, offering new opportunities to tackle inequalities and shape more sustainable and resilient urban and peri-urban food systems. However, food sharing initiatives face multiple policy barriers that hinder its potential.

Drawing on an international review of existing studies of food sharing initiatives (FSI) governance, this first policy brief of the CULTIVATE project summarises key governance barriers that currently limit the sustainability potential of FSIs and also distils a suite of high-level policy recommendations to rectify this.

Food sharing initiatives operate in a complex policy landscape, influenced by regulations from various sectors like food safety, urban planning, social services, and culture. This policy framework often treats food as a commodity, neglecting non-market-based concepts such as food as a human right or commons. This can impede the potential of food sharing to establish sustainable food systems.

Within the policy brief, distinct policy challenges have been identified by areas of food sharing:

  • Growing: Urban gardens face obstacles due to regulatory gaps in land use planning and the promotion of commercial developments over them. Furthermore, many cities lack support for and implementation of strategies that would protect and promote urban gardens.
  • Cooking and eating: Initiatives focusing on cooking and eating are confronted with complex policy landscapes driven by economic interests. Excessive bureaucratic demands prioritise economic impacts, neglecting the social benefits like improved wellbeing and inclusion. This approach reinforces inequalities, particularly for marginalised communities.
  • Redistribution: Policy barriers in surplus food redistribution are primarily tied to food safety and waste regulations. Existing legal frameworks designed for large-scale commercial operations ignore differences in scale, structure, and operation modes of various organisations. Labelling regulations, prejudices against surplus food consumption, and a lack of public awareness about food waste further hinder redistribution efforts. Additionally, there is a general absence of policies addressing food poverty and regulating food environments, which would reduce junk food and encourage surplus food redistribution.

Against this backdrop, CULTIVATE has identified a set of policy recommendations for sustainable food sharing across the EU:

  • Recognise the sustainability potential of food sharing initiatives
  • Integrate regulatory policies within the food sharing system
  • Foster collaborations among the stakeholders involved
  • Establish synergies in food sharing governance
  • Empower vulnerable groups to participate in these activities as an inclusion measure
  • Provide these initiatives with financial independence
  • Consider food sharing as a strategic response to crises with allocated resilience funds

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