Food Policy Councils

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The Policy Note

* Analytical Note: Food policy councils. TOWARDS DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE OF FOOD SYSTEMS ? Veronica Bonomelli et Manuel Egg. FIAN Belgium, 2017


"In the face of globalisation and the vertical integration of links in the food chain by the giants of the agro-food industry, new initiatives abound for relocating and transforming the governance of our food systems. At the heart of this movement, we find Food Policy Councils. These include multi-actor bodies and platforms whose objectives are to identify and offer innovative and interdisciplinary solutions with a view towards improving food systems at the local or territorial level, ensuring that they will be more environmentally sustainable and socially just. This note aims to explain the context that gave rise to these initiatives as well as their principal characteristics in order to highlight their potential and the challenges that they must confront to become a truly participatory instrument for the promotion of the right to food and nutrition."

The Concept



"The Food Policy Council represents a model of collaborative governance that emerged during the 1980s in North America, and that has since expanded to different parts of the world.

It seeks to democratise food system governance, favouring the participation of different actors within the food system (public sector, producer representatives, private sector, social activists) and developing a holistic vision for meeting challenges at the local or territorial level.

For decades, environmental, social and economic problems tied to food have been understood in a fragmented manner and managed by a multitude of institutions and public services at the local, regional and national level.

This generally leads to a proliferation of sectoral policies, without a real connection between them, which prevents them from having a strategic and coordinated approach for solving food system problems and fulfilling the right to food and nutrition. This fragmentation is particularly significant in Belgium in light of the proliferation of levels of power (federal, regional, community, provincial, local).

In light of this constant fragmentation, the Food Policy Council allows for the development of a more holistic and interdisciplinary approach by bringing different and complementary expertise to the table. In doing so, it makes collaborative governance a reality, manifested by the active participation of different actors in the political process.

Food Policy Councils operate in two complementary fields.

On the one hand, they allow for a relocalisation of food systems locally-based on territories and the inclusion of the food-sovereignty paradigm found in local development policies. On the other hand, they promotes the development of ‘human rights cities’: city or local government coupled with civil-society engagement fosters the protection and promotion of human rights, including those in the realm of the right to food." (


Fian [(]:

"The Food Policy Council is characterised by its wide diversity.

It takes several forms and has several different objectives depending on the context where it arises and the intentions of the creators.

Level of governance

They can be instituted at different levels of government, whether at the local or community level or higher territorial levels (large cities, regions). In Belgium, we see the emergence of these Councils at the urban level (Brussels, Gand, Bruges, Liège), particularly in the context of their commitment to the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (see the text box). Food Policy Councils instituted at the national level also exist (see the text box about the Brazilian National Council for Food and Nutritional Security). One interesting solution would be to have councils at different levels of government, on the condition that the roles ought to be well defined and that meaningful interaction between them and public authorities ought to be possible.


Food Policy Councils can be made up of representatives and participants from different food system sectors: production, consumption, processing, distribution and recycling. The participation quotas must be adapted accounting for power relations between the different actors connected to the food system, such as the advocates in the fight against hunger and food justice, educators, non-profit organisations, concerned citizens, civil servants, farmers, groceries, workers’ representatives, employer organisations, food processors and food product distributors.

Statutes and financing

Food Policy Councils can configure themselves under different judicial statutes and have a relatively close connection to public authorities: some are real government agencies; others have been created according to government initiatives but function with complete independence, while others still are created autonomously by civil society. As for their financing, many have no financing at all and survive thanks to the energy of volunteers, while others are financed by public funds or by individual donations.

Principal functions

Despite the Food Policy Councils’ wide variety of experiences, it is possible to identify four principal functions.

  • (1) They serve as forums for discussing questions concerning

food, creating spaces for dialogue where different actors connected to food participate.

  • (2) They encourage coordination

between different sectors connected to food, production, and recycling.

(3) They issue recommendations in order to influence public policy and undertake follow-up work and monitoring of the implementation of public policies.

(4) Besides furnishing strategic advice, they are often behind concrete initiatives that respond to local needs."



The Milan Urban Food Policy Pact


"Signed in October 2015, the Milan Pact is an initiative driven by representatives of local communities around the world for fighting for more equitable, resilient and sustainable territorial food systems. As of September 2017, it counts 148 cities as signatories, including Brussels, Bruges, Gand and, most recently, Liège. The Milan Pact reaffirms the roles and responsibilities of local communities in the realisation of food and nutritional rights and focuses on the areas of governance, social and economic equality, sustainable diets and nutrition, production, supply and distribution, and food loss and waste. The Milan Pact particularly encourages direct participation between civil society and small producers in decision making across Food Policy Councils." (

The National Council for Food and Nutritional Security - Brazil


On CONSEA: "In 2003, Brazil undertook a strategy of ‘Zero Hunger’ (fome zero). This strategy, supported by organic law, aimed to guarantee and protect the right to food and nutrition and to create formal spaces for social participation by means of food and nutritional security councils (CONSEA). The national CONSEA was installed within the Presidency of the Republic in order to show the political priority given to the fight against hunger and to promote an intersectoral dialogue between different government departments, reflecting the diversity of social sectors. The CONSEA is composed of a majority of two tiers representing civil society and one tier representing various government sectors. Some decentralised CONSEA have also been instituted with the Federated states and at the municipal level. The CONSEA have been decisive in the adoption and implementation of programs against hunger such as the Food Acquisition Program for family farmers, the National School Meal Program or the Family Allowance program (Bolsa familia), permitting a transfer of wealth to the poorest families." (

Gent en Garde and the Good Food Strategy


"In 2013, the city of Gent launched the Gent en Garde policy and more recently, in 2016, the Brussels-Capital region implemented the Good Food Strategy. Both initiatives define areas of intervention and concrete action, which include the promotion of local products, the reduction of food waste, the raising of citizen awareness and involvement, and the creation of sustainable alliances between territorial actors who work in the food trade12. The two initiatives plan to set up Food Policy Councils. It is a unique opportunity to implement a participatory strategy for the realisation of food rights in Belgium." (