On 2 May 2017, the FSSAI and the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) jointly convened a unique workshop to brainstorm the framework for the innovative ‘Food Smart City’. This is the first time that an initiative of this nature has taken place. The venue of the workshop was the FSSAI headquarters where discussions were held between national and international experts on how to create ‘Food Smart Cities’ in India. Taking their cue from the Smart City initiative of the Government of India the FSSAI has done a lot of groundwork to integrate the food system management into the Smart City guidelines. When a city is viewed through the food lens it can provide city planners with many interesting opportunities to develop institutional, social and economic infrastructure which will ensure citizens remain healthy by being provided safe and nutritious food.
A number of senior Smart City representatives from Ludhiana, Ajmer, Jaipur, Gurgaon, and Bhubaneswar also participated in the discussions. International partners and academicians shared best practices from around the world so a methodology could be worked out on how to create Food Smart Cities in India. International participants included Food Foundation from the U.K; EAT Foundation from Norway and Sweden, a representative from the Birmingham City Council and Professor Alan Dangour from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Brent Loken, Science Liaison Officer, EAT Foundation stated that the concept of a Food Smart City is in the initial stages of development and India has the opportunity to play a pioneering role that will enable this innovative change in Indian cities.
Pawan Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer, FSSAI in his opening remarks said that food, like air and water, have not been considered a part of city planning despite their being pivotal for life. Food Smart City, therefore, provides an opportunity to integrate food systems management into the smart city guidelines and make life healthier and happier for citizens. In India, cities have been growing rapidly and there are almost 60 cities that have a population of over one million. The urbanization of cities has thrown up key issues around food sufficiency, food quality, and environmental concerns. One of the ways to address these issues is to integrate sustainable food safety and nutrition systems within the smart city design and create Food Smart Cities.
In order to bring about Food Smart Cities, the FSSAI has proposed a four-pillar approach with clear actionable procedures that cities could undertake to trigger change across the country. This four-pillar approach focuses on
- safety and hygiene across the supply chain
- improvement in diets
- bringing about social and behavioral change in consumers
- good food management and food loss recovery
The FSSAI has already done substantial groundwork on some of these pillars, which can be implemented in any city aspiring to be a Food Smart City. Campaigns, processes, and practices based around each of these pillars can further create a change model for all cities to emulate.
Smart City participants at the workshop were enthused with the idea of Food Smart City and went away from the workshop with some clarity on an action plan for their city. Anupam Mishra, Economic Advisor to MoUD, suggested that food-based parameters must be added to the liveability index that is being developed by MoUD. Surabhi Malik, Additional CEO of Ludhiana Smart City, felt encouraged to include food into a new citizen collaboration and feedback portal they are developing for their Smart City. The workshop concluded with the decision that a refined framework for food smart cities would be circulated to all cities that aspire to be a Food Smart City.