UN rewards Ghent for action on food waste and sustainability


The city of Ghent has collected a Global Climate Action Award at the COP25 summit for its pioneering food campaigns that have influenced cities around the world

Short chain and social initiatives

Ghent has won a major international award for its pioneering sustainable food strategy. The UN presented a Global Climate Action Award to the city for its Gent en Garde project at the COP25 climate summit taking place in Madrid this week.

The awards recognise measures around the world that aim to tackle climate change and sustainability. Almost 700 companies, organisations and government bodies were nominated, with 15 winners chosen. Gent en Garde won in the Planetary Health category, becoming the first Belgian city to win such an award. Winners were announced in September and presented this week in Spain.

To make the local food system more sustainable, Ghent looked at the entire food chain, from production and processing to distribution, consumption and waste disposal. Key aspects are short chains, social initiatives and reducing food waste.

“Ghent is a world leader in urban food policy,” said Tine Heyse, Ghent’s city councillor responsible for the environment and climate. “That’s shown by the various international prizes we’ve received. We absolutely want to continue to deliver on this pioneering role. Our secret? Exceptional cooperation with the many partners who are involved in the Ghent food strategy.”

Win-win situation

Over the past six years, Ghent has launched a number of small- and large-scale projects to help make the food system in the city more sustainable, with the close involvement of individuals and civic groups.

Among the successes is Foodsavers (pictured), which has so far taken more than 1,000 tonnes of food that would otherwise have been thrown away by restaurants and supermarkets and shared it among social restaurants and organisations working with those living in poverty.

The Foodsavers project shows that offering solutions for ecological and social challenges can go hand in hand

- City councillor Tine Heyse

“The Foodsavers project shows that offering solutions for ecological and social challenges can go hand in hand,” said Heyse. “It’s a win-win situation and a great example of how with various partners we can make a difference.”

More than 100 local restaurants have signed up to the Restorestjes initiative for reducing food waste, in which customers who don’t finish their meal are invited to take it away in a cardboard container. In the five years of the project’s existence, more than 57,000 customers have taken up this offer, and several other local authorities in Flanders and overseas have set up their own initiative.

For 10 years, Thursday has been Veggie Day in the city, encouraging citizens to give up eating meat and fish for at least one day each week for reasons of sustainability. Every Thursday, 4,500 pupils are served vegetarian food at school, equal to 775,883 meals a year. A survey by the city showed that four out of five citizens are aware of the campaign, with one in three taking part. The initiative has spread to cities including New York.