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Food flagship initiative

London is one of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s three Strategic Partner Cities, working to accelerate the transition to a circular economy, which includes creating a more circular urban food system.

“The pandemic has shown how fragile our food system can be even in a city like London. This initiative will work with businesses across the food value chain to help increase the resilience of our food system, reduce waste and climate impacts and contribute to London’s green recovery from Covid-19.”

Shirley Rodrigues

Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy

Creating a more circular urban food system

The way our food is produced has a damaging impact on soils, biodiversity, water quality, and is contributing to the climate crisis. Food accounts for almost 10% of London’s consumption-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in large part because of the kinds of food we eat, how that food is produced, and the amount of it that is wasted. Only a small proportion of food surplus and food waste is redistributed, reprocessed or recycled, with precious nutrients being lost instead of being cycled back into fields to grow more food.

The Covid-19 health crisis has highlighted the fragility of our food system and its vulnerability to shocks and disruptions. With an increasing number of Londoners experiencing food insecurity and diet-related ill health, it has exposed ongoing socio-economic and health challenges.

With London’s population projected to reach 10.8 million by 2041, it is vital to change the way food is produced and consumed in the city.

“We need collaborative approaches to solve complex food system challenges such as food waste and the climate emergency. By joining this bold initiative, you can take action to accelerate London’s transition to a circular economy for food.”

Dr Liz Goodwin OBE

Senior Fellow and Director, Food Loss and Waste at World Resources Institute, and Chair of ReLondon Board

The Food Flagship Initiative is a major three-year venture to demonstrate how a circular economy for food can be achieved in London. Building on work already being undertaken by the Mayor of London, London’s boroughs, and ReLondon, the initiative will design and deliver interventions and evidence-based policies to reduce consumption-based emissions from food and bring together a consortium of public and private stakeholders to implement pioneering circular food system solutions. The aim is to lead a transformational shift towards a healthy and sustainable food system, underpinned by circular economy principles, where:

  • Food is grown using agroecological practices, and locally where possible
  • Healthy and sustainable food items and menus are prevalent
  • Food waste is eliminated wherever possible, and unavoidable food waste is recycled back into productive uses

Transitioning to a circular economy for food in London will not only help to tackle the climate crisis, but also represents an opportunity to restore biodiversity, regenerate soil, reduce water use and pollution, and improve human health. It could also bring a myriad of other economic and social benefits, including community wellbeing, social cohesion, supply chain resilience, skills development, and new jobs.

The Food Flagship Initiative is bringing together a consortium of public and private stakeholders across London’s food value chain – from peri-urban farmers’ associations and innovators to food brands, retailers, hospitality and public sector institutions – who are committed to three pillars of action. These pillars have been identified as the principal building blocks of a circular economy for food in London.

Pillar 1
Increase the sourcing and production of food grown using agroecological practices, and locally where possible.

Pillar 2
Increase the prevalence of healthy and sustainable food items and menus.

Pillar 3
Eliminate avoidable food waste wherever possible and recycle unavoidable food waste back into productive uses.

The consortium will play a decisive role in mobilising action across these three pillars and carving out the city’s food system transformation. It will meet routinely to share priorities, exchange ideas and insights, and work collaboratively towards a common vision for a healthy, thriving food system.

Find out more about the food flagship consortium. If you’re interested in joining, please fill in our ‘Express Interest’ form.

To realise a circular economy for food – and the economic, environmental and health benefits associated with it – unprecedented action is needed across the food system. The Food Flagship Initiative is looking to recognise and showcase bold and ambitious demonstration projects that pioneer circular food system solutions across the three pillars of action.

Whether you’re a university sourcing local and organic food on campus, a London borough taking action to reduce the environmental impact of school meals, a supermarket undertaking a household food waste reduction campaign, or a bio-economy innovator cycling food waste into nutrient-rich fertiliser, we want to hear from you!

Demonstration projects will benefit from:

Amplification: We will help promote your project as a pioneering demonstrator of the circular economy for food in London. You’ll get to use a special demonstration project ‘stamp’ to show your affiliation to the Food Flagship Initiative. We’ll also work with you to produce a case study to share with our key audiences in London, UK and around the world.

Connections:   Whether you are looking to scale your activities or explore new circular economy collaborations we will help leverage direct introductions relevant to your needs.

Support: You will join a cohort of leading demonstrator projects, receiving peer-to-peer opportunities as well as the combined expertise of ReLondon and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. We’ll arrange regular one-to-one catch ups with you to help with strategic direction, provide key insights, and share resources relevant to your activities in London and the circular economy.

Find out more about becoming a Food Flagship Initiative demonstration project. To apply to be a demonstration project, please fill in our application form.

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