Case Studies

Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal – a Gastronomic Charter for sustainable food systems

Tags: Health and Environment

A recently published study investigates the existence of adequate food policies in Portuguese municipalities favouring a shift towards sustainable food systems. The study found the Municipality of Vila Nova de Gaia to be the most policy ready of the investigated municipalities, with policies and activities in place in 4 key policy dimensions: Information and awareness, Administrative and government capacity, Local government functions, and Strategic policies (Galli et al., 2020). A signatory of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, Vila Nova de Gaia has, in recent years, developed an action plan for implementing the Pact. Through this plan, the municipality supports its residents in increasing their awareness of food consumption and production patterns, for instance via the ‘Flag to Act’ project, which is aimed at both building knowledge on current dietary habits of the population and promoting alternative healthy food habits. Weekly no-meat and no-fish meals for the students of pre-school and first cycle of elementary education in public schools are promoted. Teaching gardens are available in schools and, since 2018, at least 30% of meals within the municipality’s schools include locally produced vegetables. Specific actions are ongoing to evaluate food waste in primary schools and kindergartens, with plans to scale-up this action at a broader level. Vila Nova de Gaia also organizes annual nutrition seminars and periodically tracks implementation of the Action Plan of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, which is validated by the General Health Directorate. Several efforts are also in place to favour trans-departmental structures and coordination among different offices of the local administration to enhance systems thinking: the Social Action, Volunteering, and Health Division (DASVS) promotes, in collaboration with the City Hall’s Personnel Department, the implementation of awareness raising actions, evaluations of the nutritional status, and identification of the eating habits of the municipality’s professional groups. Favouring the urbanrural interconnection, the Municipality is also equipped with a Food and Tourism Promotion Action Plan to support short agri-food circuits by 1) promoting urban and peri-urban food production and processing based on sustainable approaches, 2) bringing producers closer to consumers, and 3) promoting other market systems to integrate the economic and social infrastructure of the urban food system. Finally, to incentivise farmer-citizen reconnection and promote regional gastronomy with sustainable production, the municipality has developed the Gastronomic Charter of Vila Nova de Gaia, through a survey of typical dishes and their historical context.

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