Local government representatives and NICE country managers involved in a peer-learning study tour to Zurich and Geneva, Switzerland

What can cities learn from each other, when it comes to nutritious and climate-friendly solutions?

A diverse group of local government stakeholders from the NICE cities (Dinajpur and Rangpur, Bangladesh, Bungoma and Busia, Kenya, and Rubavu and Rusizi, Rwanda) accompanied by the NICE country managers and some consortium staff went on a peer-learning field trip to discover different initiatives in Zurich and Geneva.

Demand, nutrition and health 🍊

Education plays a great role in enabling children and families to be “the actors of their plates.” Maria Retamales of the Swiss Food Academy promotes practical activities that help repeat the message of good nutrition and sustainability and gave us a great overview about her work.

Elisabeth Guadagnolo presented the State of Geneva’s efforts in promoting healthy eating habits in schools, notably through print-outs indicating the nutritional values of snacks. Social marketing has yet to be regulated, as unhealthy publicity can aggravate existing cases of obesity, dental cavities, and diabetes. The group even visited a local school and learnt about collaborative efforts between the institution and parents in providing healthy food to children.

NICE peer-learning participants inspecting La Fève, a cooperation shop in a modern eco-neighbourhood in Meyrin, GE, together with Sabine Bally, neighbourhood facilitator and shop administrator. Photo: Rachel Natali/Sight and Life

Gaétan Morel, through the Feed the City program, revealed the Food Action Plan of Geneva to:
◘ promote local and short distribution chains/channels
◘ encourage the transition to sustainable food
◘ develop local and international trade

The Right to Food 🍽️

What does one do with food waste? We visited MATER Fondazione’s Refettorio to learn how the restaurant uses their lunch surplus to serve free dinners in a welcoming atmosphere.

One day I realized that in fact I was tossing in the trash MY work itself, like my whole day preparing a lasagna. So here what we did is, we open at lunch, we produce for 100, we sell only 40. The surplus, we give it for free –unchanged, unadulterated– to people that cannot pay. And that’s our way to fight food waste.

Walter el Nagar, chef and founder of Refettorio in Geneva

Recognized as a fundamental human right, the right to food entails ensuring access to adequate and nutritious food for all individuals.

In a fishbone panel discussion, Claire Mason, FAO, mentioned that governments recognizing the human right of the right to food are obliged to put systems in place for adequate food. “It’s not about giving food to people. It’s ensuring there is a safety net for people to access food.” This can involve implementing policies, regulations, and programs to guarantee that no one faces hunger or malnutrition.

NICE peer-learning participants learning about Fondation Partage, an important not-for-profit stakeholder of Geneva’s social safety net, collecting food waste and providing it to those in need. Photo: Rachel Natali/Sight and Life

The right to food also extends to creating sustainable food systems, promoting access to resources for food production, and making food a public service for all individuals. It also involves educating the public on nutrition, promoting sustainable agriculture practices, and ensuring food security for everyone.

The state should subsidize (this food social security) allocation that everyone would receive, because food is a right.

Léa Winter, FoodFirst Information and Activists Network (FIAN) International

The inspired peer-learning study team concluded with reflections on the innovative and deliberate connective efforts that make the country’s food systems a reality:

📜 Policies, backed by data, are crucial for progress, with the state playing a significant role in influencing the private sector.

🍽️ The strength of a country’s food system lies in its robust policy framework across its cities, and stands out even more with its commitment to the Right to Food. Local interventions should align with national and international processes for effective governance.

❤️ There is a strong commitment to include people of all walks of life, so no one gets left behind.

🤝 Collaboration across sectors is key, as highlighted by the need to find a common language and value among diverse stakeholders.

🚦 Additionally, good strategy, planning, and connectivity are essential for effective support and progress in food systems. Also, urban food systems need greater visibility on the international stage, especially in hubs like International Geneva.

The Swiss food system’s strength is in the policy.

Elizabeth Imbo, NICE country manager Kenya