Amsterdam’s local food system

If we focus the attention on the city of Amsterdam, doctor we notice that when the local food system is taken into consideration, many projects address themselves towards sourcing and consuming food.

In particular, in Amsterdam activity is organised around three kinds of project:

_Activities with the local community (socially disadvantaged groups, for example)
_Activities that focus on food education (students and professionals)
_Activities that seek innovation in production techniques and location

One interesting insight concerning our analysis of the local food system in Amsterdam is the fact that only one project focuses on sustainable local food distribution. This insight demonstrates that there are great opportunities for developing food distribution projects in a city that is home to some of the best bike and boat infrastructure in the world. CITIES strongly supports the development of sustainable means of food-related transportation, needing little initial investment, making use of existing assets such as bikes and boats. Similarly, our analysis shows that Amsterdam offers many packaging and food processing opportunities, as we found little evidence of the existence of activities that seek to process and distribute only locally-produced food: without a doubt, innovative approaches to local food distribution would play a major role in the creation of a viable city-wide local food system.

New economic framework
In the development of a local food system, it is necessary to understand the ‘big picture’ of the current state of urban agriculture in Amsterdam, and to consider how to integrate a range of food-related activity into a wider framework.

To clarify, consider the impact of policy support on localised industries in Amsterdam. Many Amsterdammers are no doubt familiar with the Amsterdam Creative City Policy. Back in the mid-2000s, the Municipality recognised the potential of creative industries as a new asset that could drive the urban economy. Before being labelled collectively as ‘creative industries’; art, theater, music and media were a cluster of ‘alternative’ businesses. Public policy identified these potential new economic players, promoting start-ups and the ‘clustering’ of similar types of businesses in order that they help and support each other. The result, Amsterdam Creative City, has seen creative activity become a positive force for urban development. Once a process of renewal was about to start, creative businesses were placed in the target area on a temporary basis to ‘seed’ and embed community and social activity. This process has been successfully used in many city neighborhoods; and today such initiatives are more relevant than ever, as the financial crisis has led to many real estate projects being put on hold. This process was successful because of the low initial investment required to kickstart physical renewal. This experience has had a strong impact on Amsterdam urban and economic development, and it is interesting to speculate how many similar successes urban agriculture projects would be likely to generate.

Considering the selected initial projects analysed withing the framework of Farming the City, it is evident that urban agriculture in Amsterdam is a growing trend. Many individuals have organised themselves to innovate, educate and to work with communities. As a consequence, CITIES proposes that urban farming should be supported as a growing sector in which innovation and new business opportunities (especially in the local transportation and local food processing segment) are clearly present.

In practice, after a period of detailed analysis and research into local food systems and their potential impact upon urban development, we conclude that the development of a system of local food production (in neglected, abandoned or derelict areas), sustainable food transportation (by bike and boat) and locally organised food processing and packaging activities would generate considerable added value for the local economy.


CITIES believes that a comprehensive approach, favoring ‘bottom-up’ approaches and using the local food system as a central framework, would produce employment opportunities, increase citizen participation in civic and social life, and positively influence the choice of temporary activities for the stimulation of urban renewal.

Posted on 30 March 2011 and filed under content