Milan, Italy

2018-12-10 00:00:00

Milan Food Policy: An Innovative Framework for Making Urban Food System More Sustainable, Inclusive


  • Population size: 1,331,000

  • Population growth rate (%): 4.20

  • Surface area ( 181.00

  • Population density: 7533.00

  • GDP per capita (USD): 69130.00



The Milan Food Policy is the first innovative step which the municipality has taken to move forward in making its food system more sustainable, resilient and equal. The Policy is the result of years of growing awareness among relevant actors and the civil society on the challenges of climate change and need for a responsible management of resources. Thanks to an in-depth study of the Milan food system started in 2014, the food policy became a reference initiative ready to pay attention to the city’s needs. Through various innovative tools and methods (projects, MOUs, specific agreements, etc.) it works with several departments of the municipality, municipal agencies, social actors and the private sector. It also carries out a strong relationship with other European cities committed on food related issues, thanks to its lead position (chairing and membership) within the EUROCITIES network (a major network of cities in Europe).



In 2015 the City Council voted to approve the document “Milan Food Policy Guidelines” which established the 5 priorities of the municipal food strategy. The Milan Food Policy activities exist thanks to the collaboration among the local authority of Milan Municipality (that allows the institutional support of the policy definition and implementation), Cariplo Foundation (the most important grant making organization in Italy, co-financer of the initiative) and EStà an independent Research Center (that ensures the technical and scientific support of the policy definition).



The Municipality of Milan decided to create this policy during the process of definition of Universal Exhibition, hosted in Milan in 2015 “Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life”, as legacy of the event. During the years before the Expo the city of Milan was in the center of a wide debate on how making more sustainable the food system. 

The externalities of a wrong food system have increasingly been demonstrated: the world trade has lengthened the distance between the producers and consumers, the impact of logistic on pollution and congested traffic, the waste of food still usable for human consumption, the scarce accessibility of food resources to the weaker sections of the population. 

At the same time the City of Milan, from the Middle Ages to the Second World War, it has always had great control over its food system and that helped make great Milan. A planning that gradually decreased but maintain a set of institutional drivers as ownership of land and farms, public agencies that act on food supply, a big peri-urban productive surface managed by a public Agricultural Park, a vibrant universities system of knowledge, a spread activism of micro and macro associations of social actors. 

All these reasons move the municipality to co-create with a big set of local actors a specific policy that can increase the sustainability of the Milan Food System with a holistic and multilevel governance approach.

The Milan Food Policy aims to make the metropolitan food system more sustainable, resilient and equal. The policy defined two institutional tools for its implementation: The Metropolitan Food Council and the Monitoring Framework.

The first one in order to create a new institutional space capable of manage continuously food related issues, the second one as a tool, based on the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (a voluntary agreement on Urban Food Policy among 174 cities worldwide) Monitoring Framework, to assess food system changes and progress.

A set of indicators from the MUFPP tool were selected and used to start the evaluation of impacts on the Milan food system.

The Milan Food Policy was created thanks to the partnership between the Municipality and Cariplo Foundation, both the partners signed in July 2014 a Memorandum of Understanding to promote and implement the initiative. 

Cariplo Foundation committed itself to give funds for the technical support to the Food Policy, provided by an independent research center, while the Municipality of Milan designated its first Vice Mayor for the political commitment and established an office dedicated to the implementation of the initiative. 

The Food Policy Office also work for the integration among departments, agencies, urbanand multilevel actors engaged in the Food System.

The Food Policy is implemented day-by-day by a coordination office within the Mayor’s Office of the Municipality of Milan under the direct control of the first Vice Mayor. The technical support to the policy is provided by an independent research center, who also manages the funding that a local foundation invests in the initiative.

The team working on the policy is made of several people from the municipality, the research center and the foundation.

The implementation of the Food Policy is also based on a big range of collaborations with several local partners (universities, research centers, private food sector, civil society organizations) through MOUs and Special Thematic Agreements.



The Milan Food Policy should be considered a revolutionary initiative, the design of such policy constituted a complete innovation in the Milan context. The food policy defines 5 priorities for the city:

  1. ensure healthy food and water for all citizens;

  2. promote the sustainability of the food system;

  3. promote food education;

  4. fight against food waste;

  5. support scientific research in agri-food sector. 

The City of Milan informed its food strategy from 2015 until 2020 putting together these 5 goals, with the aim of creating a good practice that could be spread in the whole metropolitan area surrounding the city.

The innovation carried out by the Milan Food Policy is inspired by the experiences of several global food policy initiatives.

  • New York City was a significant example of how to improve the sustainability of public procurement through mayoral orders.

  • The London food policy created a monitoring framework through the assessment of its neighborhoods.

  • Barcelona activated the local markets network.

  • Vancouver urban agriculture...

The most significant challenge for the implementation of urban food policy is finding an integrated and efficient governance model. In Milan a holistic model was defined to allow the City to go beyond silos mentality of the different Municipal departments and agencies, engage the relevant local stakeholders (horizontal integration) and connect with Metropolitan and Regional authorities (vertical integration). 

The Vice mayor was designated for Milan Food Policy by the Mayor, with a role of coordination and with the technical support of the newly established Food Policy Office. This Office works for the integration among departments, agencies, urban and multilevelactors engaged in the Food System and, within the MUFPP Secretariat, shares methodology and best practices within the Milan networks (MUFPP, EUROCITIES WG Food, C40).

The Milan Food Policy is applying its innovative approach in the governance of the initiative as much as in the implementation, connecting the activities of the Municipality with public agencies, social actors and the private sector. 

The main obstacles to the Milan Food Policy are the status quo of the food system as much as the silos mentality of the administrative Municipality of Milan. 

On one side the absence of a comprehensive view on the food system in the past led to a lack of reliable data regarding the main existent mechanisms of such environment. These grey areas made even more difficult the beginning phases of the Food Policy: before the design process, an assessment of the whole food system was carried out and it ended up with the definition of 10 main issues.

After the analysis, the city also launched a public consultation engaging different departments, universities, civil society organizations, startups, the private sector and citizens, in order to have a feedback on the municipal needs that needed to be tackled.



The Milan Food Policy is growing at a strong pace and has around 40 ongoing initiatives and related processes among them we would like to mention the following. To tackle food waste the Food Policy introduced a reduction on the waste tax for businesses within the municipality that donate food losses to charities and it mapped existing charities that redistribute food to needy people.

Concerning public procurement the Food Policy connected, as a pilot project, the school canteens public procurement with the supply chain of rice produced by the farmers of the Agricultural District of Milan (180 tons/year for a value of € 300,000/year). The know-how of this experience works now as grounds for further scalability by making available 19 horticultural supply chains for school canteens public procurement.

The policy defined two institutional tools for its implementation: The Metropolitan Food Council and the Monitoring Framework.

The Food Policy actions and guidelines monitoring system, based on the Monitoring Framework of the Milan Pact, allows not only to analyze, evaluate and monitor over time the issues, guidelines and actions and their related impacts, but also indirectly to increase knowledge with respect to the issues in question. This action responds to the need to build an information system that enhances what is already available in the Municipality structures and in the institutions, in the world of research and in social bodies, and makes it accessible and functional to support decisions and actions.

The independent research centre that supports the Food Policy Office will publish in 2018 an updated and comprehensive report on the Milan food system, including the monitoring framework application on the data gathered in the document.

The positioning of the urban Food Policy initiative within the Mayor’s Office and directly under the mandate of the first Vice Mayor provides a pivotal role of the Initiative and its institutional anchoring which ensures its longevity and stability. Therefore the silos approach which often is seen institutional structures can be overcome. 

The City of Milan was the first Italian city to research food issues and consequently implement its urban Food Policy. This provides new stimulus to local authorities of its metropolitan area to follow the example of Milan in working toward a more sustainable approach to the food system and thus to a sustainable, equitable urban development of cities. When introducing its food policy, Milan also launched the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP), a protocol aiming at tackling food-related issues at the urban level, to be adopted by as many world cities as possible.



In parallel to the Food Policy definition, the City of Milan promote an international dialogue aimed at defining and signing an international pact on urban Food Policies called Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP). The MUFPP is the result of a collective effort of a total 175 and counting cities around the world and an advisory group of institutions and foundations operating internationally. Shared goals were identified with respect to which each signatory undertook to take steps according to its abilities, possibilities and availability.

The City of Milan is also chairing the EUROCITIES Working Group Food. EUROCITIES is one of the most important association of cities in Europe and gathers cities in thematic working groups. Milan created the Working Group Food, that is today composed by 51 European cities advocating to EU Commission, in order to scale up the process of regionalization prompted by the Milan Pact.

Milan is the only municipal authority engaged directly in the EU Platform for Food Losses and Food Waste, chaired by the DG SANTE Commissioner, voicing the efforts, ideas and aspirations of cities (members of the WG Food) committed on urban food related topics.

Milan is also active in the C40 Food System Network that is helping cities achieve solutions to their most pressing food systems challenges by incorporating both health and environmental considerations into food strategies and activities. The city participates in the annual workshop held in Stockholm and to several webinars through the year.



  • Goal 1: End poverty in all of its forms

  • Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

  • Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages

  • Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

  • Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

  • Target 3: Participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management

  • Target 6: Improve air quality and manage municipal and other wastes

  • Target 7: Universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible green and public spaces, in particular of women, children older persons and persons with disabilities

  • Target 8: Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas

  • Target 9: Improving resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters and implement holistic disaster risk management

  • Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns