The Food Trails Project is Two Years Old!

14 Dec 2022

Wherever people live, they must eat to survive and thrive, ideally several times a day. And where do most people live nowadays? That’s right, in cities! According to the United Nations (UN), 55% of the world’s population were living in urban areas in 2021 — and that figure is predicted to rise to 66% by 2050.

Globally, food systems are failing to address this basic human need, while fueling problems like climate change, waste, environmental degradation and economic inequality. In the context of a rapidly urbanizing world, these problems have become serious challenges for cities, which have become key actors for the transition towards better food systems.

How can we help urban people eat in a healthy, affordable and sustainable way? That’s the challenge that the “Food Trails” project, of which Slow Food is an active member, has set itself.

Launched in October 2020, the “Food Trails” Project is a four-year project, launched in October 2020, with the aim to stimulate the development of sustainable urban food policies in 11 European cities (Bergamo, Birmingham, Bordeaux, Copenhagen, Funchal, Grenoble, Groningen, Milan, Tirana, Thessaloniki, and Warsaw). Cities are supported by different partners, including Slow Food, who has been enabling the collaboration between cities and their citizens to design food policies that empower their community, make the farm-to-fork journey sustainable, promote a zero-waste use of resources, encourage environmentally friendly behavior change and ensure people have healthy and secure diets.


Discover more about the Food Trails Project.


Last month, all partners met up in Thessaloniki, Greece, for their second Annual Partner Meeting, to discuss the design and implementation of their innovative pilot projects, which they have been developing in “Living Labs”. Some cities are already well advanced, while others remain in the initial phase, but what matters is that all of them showed commitment to transform their local food system on the long-term. One clear fact emerged from the discussions: cities are at the forefront of the sustainable food transition.




Kapani Market, Thessaloniki, Greece

The city is in the process of establishing a “Food Policy Council” that will involve the municipality, but also many actors from the food chain to set up an integrated food policy.

On top of this, they are thinking about ways to help change young people’s food habits and improve their food education, while making sure that their families and households embrace such change. To support this project, Thessaloniki is building urban vegetable gardens and a vineyard in the heart of the city. The gardens serve as a demonstration site and innovation hub to improve food education.



Slow Food Earth Martket, Bergamo

Slow Food Earth Martket, Bergamo, Italy, (c) Slow Food Archive

The city is taking its first steps towards developing a comprehensive “City Food Policy Strategy”, while improving the food served in school canteens by developing plant-rich menus and increasing the share of sustainable, organic, and local foods.

Besides, Bergamo wishes to raise awareness among the citizenry, especially the younger generations, about healthy foods, prioritizing plant-based and local foods and reducing waste.




Brindley Place, Birmingham, UK, (c) Gabriel McCallin

Birmingham has set itself two main targets.

First, they wish to reduce food miles and foster a growing culture in the city. Via they pilot project they will gain permission to transform the upper floor of a large car park into an urban farm and community garden. The space will include an educational area for schools, an interface for farmers to supply directly to food retailers, and residents can participate and witness the growth of fruits and vegetables.

Moreover, the city is working towards reducing food waste and fostering a circular economy. Within their “Living Lab” they have been brainstorming on ways to prove that keeping food waste in the city is more environmentally and economically savvy than sending it to the landfill or external industrial partners. The project also aims to foster a composting culture amongst local residents who will be encouraged to grow their own veggies and fruits.

To achieve, Birmingham will start collecting data early 2023, on how much waste being diverted from landfill will need to be gathered.




Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux, France,  (c) Juan Di Nella

The Bordeaux Metropole (administrative group of 28 municipalities) has had a Food Policy Council since 2017 and is now working to strengthen the territorial food network and to ensure greater engagement among stakeholders, citizens, agricultural organizations, and other municipalities of the Metropolitan area.

Meanwhile, they are looking at ways to guarantee a healthier and sustainable public procurement in public canteens (with plant-based recipes, local and organic food on the menus), while strengthening their relationships with local producers.




Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark, (c) Nick Karvounis

The municipality is working intensely on its public procurement processes to leverage them for a transition towards climate-friendly menus in public institutions (schools, prisons, hospitals etc). They have managed to achieve 90% organic food in public canteens without raising costs, especially due to an increase in plant-based menus.

Besides, Copenhagen is also working on raising awareness among the school children of the crucial role local farmers play in feeding the citizens and taking care of our planet. For that, farm visits are regularly organized.




Rua do Castelo, Funchal, Madeira Portugal (c) Dimitry B

Funchal wishes to strengthen its people’s connection to their territory, develop new skills, learn about nutrition, sustainability and local food heritage, and empower the community for pursuing a better life. They have chosen to do so through four different pilot projects.

First, the city allocates every year 550 garden lots to citizens to encourage families to produce their own vegetables.

Second, they have set up a workshop venue where school children can learn about food sustainability through a series of subjects: the cycle of life, the life of the ants, the Mediterranean and the EAT planetary diet, and the regeneration of old native crops like ‘xixero’ is promoted, the importance of plant-based meals, among others.

Thirdly, school children are regularly taken to visit the farmers’ markets to learn about food.

Lastly, a partnership between the city, the local seed bank, and the University was created to preserve the agro-diversity of the Madeira archipelago.




Fort de la Bastille, Grenoble, France, (c) Benoit Morganti

The Grenoble Metropole (49 municipalities) has set up a discussion group to debate, reassess and raise awareness on the importance of shifting into more sustainable and healthy diets in their municipalities. As a result, they have created a range of activities for their yearly event: “The Month of Food Transition”, whose theme was “Eat less and better meat” in 2022.

Moreover, they are also supporting the change of the food served in school canteens to healthier and more sustainable meals. The food waste management in school canteens is also being closely addressed.

Last but not least, they have developed a Food and Agriculture Strategy towards a Common Food Policy. A consultation group composed of several stakeholders was created to discuss ways to stimulate a more sustainable and healthier food system. Their main goal is to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.




Groningen, Netherlands, (c) Alexei Maridashvili

Groningen has many key assets to offer, one of them being “Westpark”, a thriving food park around “Tuin in de Stad” where food production, educational gardens and a food forest (a piece of agricultural land where fruit trees, bushes, and vegetables are intergrown and benefit from one another) attract a wide community. In that amazing park, people can grow their crops, cook and eat in a convivial way.

Another perk about the city is its social restaurant, that is connected to a kitchen garden “Toentje/Bie de Buuf where food education is promoted. The social restaurant does not only make healthy food accessible to everyone, but its urban vegetable garden produces fresh vegetables and herbs to supply the city’s food bank. What’s more, the restaurant is used to educate the community on food sustainability through social workshops, dedicated classes for school kids, and the promotion of artisanal shops.

Also, the city recently published ‘Samen koken in Groningen’, a cookbook that will be used at community centers to enhance citizens’ cooking skills and food education. The book is written in accessible language and the ingredients are easy to find in the food bank and budget supermarkets.




Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, Italy, (c) Ouael Ben Salah

Since the development of Milan’s urban food policy in 2015, the improvement of the school canteen system has become a priority for the city.

In its pilot project, the city of Milan is committing to reduce the total amount of food waste and loss generated in the school canteen system to reach zero food waste, through nudging activities for the kids to reduce their leftovers and by reducing the amount of disposables.

The city is also working on innovative ways to use organic waste of canteens and cooking centers as biofuel. A feasibility study is being carried on.




Tirana, Albania, (c) Mario Beqollari

Like many cities of the “Food Trails” project, they aim at making school menus healthier, incorporating traditional foods, while developing a guidance to discourage kids from leaving school during lunchtime to access fast food.

Tirana also has its eye on improving food donations. The city distributes 600 packages of food twice a day to people in need and is trying to supply more nutritious food donations. Restaurants and food businesses are also being encouraged to redistribute their food surplus to the social centers. One of their pilot project’s main outcomes will be the creation of a mobile app that alerts social centers when and where there is surplus food available.

But the city also takes to heart to showcase its traditional products, which it does by organizing food fairs. During these fairs, nutritional advice is given to citizens to inspire them to pursue healthier diets. Since the beginning of the project, six of these fairs already took place in Tirana.




Warsaw Old Town, Warsaw, Poland, (c) Elijah G

Warsaw has dedicated its pilot project entirely to the reduction of food waste. Even though the city had to reevaluate its priorities due to the War in Ukraine, and the subsequent refugee crisis (800,000 people reached the city in a few weeks), the work with the Food Trails never stopped and the priority remained the same – preventing food waste for different target groups (small and medium-sized restaurants for instance).

They also aim to optimize food redistribution in the food aid sector. If at the beginning of the refugee crisis, the city was working intensely with its citizens to guarantee food to all the newcomers in a non-organized way, they have now improved their system, and ensure that the connection between donors and beneficiaries is made.


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