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Why is it important for a municipality to implement food policy?

“As a municipality, you have a responsibility for the health of your residents. Health starts with sufficient opportunities for exercise and healthy food, “says councilor Leon Meijer. Exercise policy is a matter of course for the municipalities. Food policy is now also being adopted by more and more municipalities. Research from the Nutrition Center shows that a healthy and / or sustainable living environment was on the agenda for the local elections in about half of the municipalities. “It is a step forward, but it is still a pity that this is only the case for half of the municipalities. We at Ede have been working on this theme for so long. We are seeing more and more how food policy relates to all residents. It affects well-being and health. If you want to put the interests of your residents first, use the opportunities you have for nutrition and health. So doing nothing is not an option “, argues Marieke Seip.

What characterizes the approach in Ede?

As in the rest of the Netherlands, many overweight people live in Ede municipality. In our country, 49% of people over the age of 18 are overweight. This leads to health problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It requires the introduction of budget in the health care system, but also in the form of benefits because people fall out of the work process. Money that Ede municipality would rather spend on preventing health problems. After Ede formulated a vision and ambition for food about seven years ago, she worked hard to implement it. “It started with a good implementation program set up by a dedicated program manager. You do not achieve much with just one vision, ”says Seip. It is also important that it does not become an independent program that has nothing to do with the rest of the organization. Healthy food is a means of solving other problems. “At Ede, we invested a lot of time in connecting all domains. We asked them the question: what can you do based on your expertise to get more healthy food among the residents of Ede? It is crucial to keep asking that question. Otherwise, food policy is easily forgotten. Colleagues in Ede are no longer surprised that this question is constantly being asked, ”Seip continues.

How can the other domains contribute to a healthier and more sustainable food environment?

Seip: “Food affects all municipal domains, both social and physical.” By linking internal links to, for example, education, the officials in question can include the food ambitions in their discussions with the educational institutions, and the officials’ food ambitions are not only designated for this topic. “Colleagues from the Education domain can help by encouraging schools to allow only healthy food. Colleagues from Spysisk Planlægning can ensure that allotment gardens are automatically given space in the public space in new residential areas, ”says Seip for illustration. Councilor Meijer adds another example: “Sometimes there are residential plots where construction can only start in three years. In Ede, we built a kitchen garden in such a place. We invested in a water pipe and the residents could use it. A number of Afghan migrants taught others how to grow beans. Different cultures mixed in the kitchen garden. It is a good example of unplanned integration through food. ”

What else does it require from the internal organization of a municipality?

Good food policy requires administrative and official commitment. The director must believe in it, just like the official client. “Avoid it becoming a toy for the councilor. It is important to guarantee it officially, because that is where the implementation power lies, “Meijer explains. It is essential that the official team draws up an implementation program and that it becomes clear to the rest of the organization that the food ambitions are not non-binding. “As an official customer, I fully believe in our food ambition and its necessity. In my position, I am responsible for the entire social domain. It helps the host, because I can help keep the contingency organized in the rest of the organization, if it becomes necessary, ”says Seip.

What obstacles / challenges do you face in food policy?

The topic and the usefulness and necessity of healthy food for people often excite colleagues and other organizations. “The importance is not easy to discuss. However, it is difficult to make the ambition concrete. As a result, today’s issues can take over from other colleagues, as a result of the results lagging behind. It is up to the Food team to keep them awake and make concrete agreements, “explains Seip.” Sometimes they also run into municipal rules. Leon Meijer gives an example of this. “Two entrepreneurs volunteered who would make healthy and with local products for students on the knowledge campus that needed to be developed. were excited about their plans.They need a problem point.Thereby they encounter municipal rules.No carriages are allowed in place A and it is not the intention in place B. It requires a lot of consultation and persuasion to make an exception for initiatives , which contributes to the ambitions of the area to be developed. ”

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