Publication of guide for municipal promotion of a sustainable food economy

The new guide was developed within the framework of the research project KERNiG at the University of Freiburg

The local food economy plays a crucial role on the road to climate-friendly cities and municipalities. It encompasses everything from agricultural production, processing, logistics and distribution to food consumption and waste recycling. The new practical guide "Municipal Instruments for a Sustainable Food Economy" now documents 15 instruments that are already being used by cities and municipalities to sustainably shape the local food economy. The guide is available free of charge and offers concrete examples and practical suggestions for employees in municipal administrations and other local decision-makers who manage issues such as economic development, climate protection and/or urban development.

First comprehensive study of instruments available to strengthen local sustainable food economy

The guide was written as part of the research project KERNiG (Kommunale Ernährungssysteme als Schlüssel zu einer umfassend-integrativen Nachhaltigkeits-Governance -  municipal food systems as the key to comprehensive, integrative sustainability governance) at the University of Freiburg by Dr. David Sipple , associate member at the Chair of Environmental Governance, and Arnim Wiek from Arizona State University in the US, who is currently a visiting professor at the University of Freiburg. "The guide is the result of extensive research and interviews with experts. Up until now, there had been no comprehensive study of instruments available for strengthening the local sustainable food economy. Through this project we have been able to close the gap," reports Sipple, who was also the project coordinator for the KERNiG project. "We are particularly pleased that we were able to present the results to practitioners and have them validate them at a workshop in Freiburg in 2022 in cooperation with the German Association of Towns and Municipalities and the Association of Towns and Cities for the State of Baden-Württemberg."

15 municipal instruments to shape sustainable local food economies

The guide describes different types of instruments available to municipalities to make the local food economy sustainable. Instruments of regulation exist in particular in municipal ordinances and municipal planning. For example, municipalities can address and strengthen the concerns of local sustainable food enterprises through the targeted application of their planning instruments (e.g., open space planning, land use plans).

Economic instruments include, for example, the public procurement of local sustainable food, the direct financing of food enterprises by municipalities or the operation of their own municipal enterprises. As a concrete example, the guide presents the city of Darmstadt, which produces part of its day care and school catering in-house via a local company. This eliminates complex tendering procedures in some cases and allows the city to exert direct influence on the menu design and thus on sustainability aspects.

Cooperations such as regional marketing and networking opportunities for the local food economy are also described as instruments. In recent years, the cooperation of local authorities in food councils, for instance in the design of regional food strategies, has proven to be a promising instrument.

Finally, the guide also documents instruments of information such as setting behavioural incentives for consumers (so-called nudging), nutrition education and training offers on corporate sustainability.

The term "instrument" is used in the guide to refer to any suitable, standardised and reproducible procedure used by local government. The following primary criteria were used to select the instruments: An instrument must be applicable at the municipal level in Germany, it must be specific to the food economy and to sustainability, the municipality must be the central stakeholder, and there must be at least one successful use case in municipal practice.

Motivation and incentives for municipalities

"The global climate and supply crises make it clear that food must become a central component of municipal strategies and activities on the way to sustainable and climate-compatible cities and municipalities," emphasises Arnim Wiek, who has been selected for a Humboldt Professorship to establish a research centre for a sustainable food economy at the University of Freiburg. "We hope that this guide will help motivate cities and municipalities in German-speaking countries to put the promotion of local sustainable food economies on their agendas, learning from the experiences of others."

The practical guide "Municipal Instruments for a Sustainable Food Economy" is available now and can be downloaded free of charge via the University of Freiburg.

Publication:
Sipple, D., & Wiek, A. (2023). Kommunale Instrumente für die nachhaltige Ernährungswirtschaft. Freiburg i.Br.: Institut für Umweltsozialwissenschaften und Geographie,
Universität Freiburg.