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    Report: The Big Urban Food Debate

    Urban food supply is one of the most important themes of our time. With the municipal elections of March 2018, the Flevo Campus Think Tank presented their Manifesto on Wednesday 7th of March. Ten political representatives from Almere debated about food during The Big Urban Food Debate.

    Almere on the move

    More than 150 interested people – politicians, students, experts from the field and involved people of Almere – gathered in the city hall of Almere. Chairman of the day Kim Coppes opened the evening and discussed the importance of the food issue in Almere and why students should be involved with aldermen René Peeters and Tjeerd Herrema from the municipality of Almere. Tjeerd Herrema: “Food is something that affects everyone. If we can involve young people, they will not only think about the future of the city, but also about their own future.” René Peeters talked about a beautiful project that the municipality wants to realize. “In 2018 we will realize ‘De Verwondering’, the first primary school with a 100% ecological policy. The school board also requested other schools in Almere to become green schools.”


    Over the past few months, 19 students and young professionals looked into Almere and its food policy. The result, a Manifesto with 7 recommendations on the themes: health, city region planning, public procurement, city and hinterland, circularity, innovation an education. Adele Wilson and Philip Elders, both Think Tank participants, presented the Manifesto. Philip: “We want an urban food policy that can deliver food in a healthy, safe and sustainable way to the city of Almere, and the world. Food is central to several major problems.” Adele: “We think these recommendations can make a difference if the municipality actually takes them to heart.”

    It is about connection

    The first reactions to the Manifesto came from the aldermen and experts Sigrid Wertheim-Heck (lecturer Nutrition and Healthy Living at Aeres Hogeschool) and Jaap Seidell (professor at VU University Amsterdam). All four were enthusiastic about the work of the Think Tank, but some recommendations were more nuanced. Sigrid Wertheim-Heck: “Almere has to buy locally, but many of those regional companies have to think on a larger scale in order to survive.” Jaap Seidell: “It is about connection. Where does your food come from and do you know what tot do with it? Food education, once you have that bond with vegetables, you will look at food in the supermarket with different eyes.”

    The Great Urban Food Debate

    After this, 10 politicians came on stage to debate with each other in pairs on the basis of 5 statements.

    Statement 1 about health:
    The municipality will not allow new fast food restaurants in the city centre of Almere

    Elian van Nunen (Leefbaar Almere) and Veerle Vrindts (Partij voor de Dieren) agreed with the statement and emphasized that there are also healthy fast food restaurants that deserve a chance. Veerle Vrindts acknowledged that changing the consumer’s behaviour is a slow process: “It is slow, but that does not mean you should not do it. A large part of students benefits from a healthy canteen in schools.” According to Elian van Nunen, it is a matter of getting acquainted with healthy food. “People will then make the healthy choice more easily. If fast food chains then get less people in their restaurants, they will need to look for different locations or healthier product offers.”

    Statement 2 about city region planning:
    Urban agriculture is an elite hobby

    The majority of the audience disagreed with this statement. Willy-Anne van der Heijden (GroenLinks) also shared the opinion of the public and emphasized that urban agriculture is necessary for a city in order to be self-sufficient. “In the past it was something elite, but now there is the realization that it just has to be done. We can not do everything with excessive agriculture.” Marcel Benard (ChristenUnie) partly agreed:” We have to make less kilometres for our food, but urban agriculture is not a replacement. If we want to prevent urban agriculture from remaining an elite hobby, we need to be active as a government.”

    Statement 3 on public procurement:
    80% of the purchased food in public institutions must come from Dutch farmers

    Although the majority of the audience agreed with this statement, Bastiaan Malotaux (CDA) was not convinced yet.” It is important that you eat a variety of food. Some things are not grown here at all.” Miranda Joziasse (VVD) saw a role for the municipality in this process, but did not agree with obliging public institutions to act in a specific way. “I think it is up to the public institutions themselves to determine what they do with their budgets. The municipality can start the conversation to see what institutions need to turn the tide.”

    Statement 4 about City and hinterland:
    Local entrepreneurs should be given priority for permits in stores and on the market

    This topic was a returning theme in the discussions and debates and turned out to be one of the most difficult. Because does this ensure fair market operation? Helga Tjon A Kon (Wij Staan Voor) responded: “You give local entrepreneurs the opportunity to do business. They have to contribute to our Flevo economy and also provide jobs in Flevoland.” According to Mark Wiggers (Groen Liberale Partij) you could only agree with this statement. “We will not exclude anyone. It a measure which is needed. Since the big boys are currently profiling themselves over the smaller local entrepreneurs. By giving local entrepreneurs a chance we can bring something unique in Almere.”

    Statement 5 on education:
    The municipality is responsible for the realization of vegetable gardens at every school

    The audience seemed impressed by this statement and the majority agreed. Both Ton Lesscher (D66) and Jerzy Soetekouw (PvdA) doubted the responsibility of the municipality. Jerzy Soetekouw: “The municipality is not responsible. However, I do stimulate the fact that schools are working on this. You have to create awareness and show that food production it is not self-evident. In addition, investing in physical education is also necessary.” Ton Lesscher: “As a municipality you can maintain the good contact with schoolboards and present them the direction you want to go as a municipality. Besides, it will be easier to stimulate initiatives with the upcoming Floriade in mind.”

    Starting the conversation was the common thread in most debates this evening. Starting conversations with public institutions, school boards, franchisess and local entrepreneurs in order to realize a sustainable, healthy Almere. In addition, at least 3 parties indicated they would take the Manifesto to heart. In that respect it was a succesful evening with lots of discussions and a great turnout. On to the next edition!

    Couldn’t be there on the 7th of March, check out the show here