MILAN, 15th October, 2015 (WAM)– Cities have a key role to play in ending hunger and improving nutrition, FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said today, welcoming a commitment by more than 100 cities from around the world to make food systems in urban areas more equitable and sustainable.

Addressing a mayors’ summit in Milan, Graziano da Silva said he applauded the city’s Mayor Giuliano Pisapia and his counterparts from other cities for signing the Urban Food Policy Pact.

Through the agreement, cities adhere to four principles: guaranteeing healthy food for all; promoting sustainability in the food system; educating the public about healthy eating, and; reducing waste.

Urban centres will be key actors in achieving the globally-agreed Sustainable Development Goals, including the eradication of hunger by 2030, Graziano da Silva said, noting that achieving these goals or sustaining them in the long run will also require tackling climate change and reducing emissions.

“A majority of the population of the world already lives in cities and the urban population is going to increase, particularly in developing countries/Unfortunately, many cities cannot ensure regular and stable access to adequate food and water for all, nevertheless food security and nutrition remains overlooked in urban planning and development,” Graziano da Silva said.

He also referred to the need to address unhealthy or wasteful practices. “Obesity grows at alarming rates, particularly in urban areas of middle and upper income countries, where diet changes are driven by people’s lifestyles,” the FAO Director General said, and noted also how food waste in cities is increasingly higher.

“Among other reasons, urban customers often discard fruits and vegetables that don’t look good, even when they are perfectly fresh,”Graziano da Silva said.

The framework for the Urban Food Policy Pact, which was developed with FAO’s technical assistance, recognises the importance of an inclusive approach that brings together governments, private sector and civil society.

It also underscores the importance of enhancing the links between urban centres and their surrounding rural areas. In this context, the FAO Director-General cited innovative solutions such as the increase in small-scale urban and peri-urban agriculture that can produce food which helps to diversify and foster healthier diets of families and households living in cities.

The Urban Food Policy Pact forms part of the initiatives linked to the Expo Milano 2015 universal trade exhibition which is being held in Milan and has as its theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.”

FAO is coordinating the United Nations system’s participation at Expo where a UN itinerary is offering millions of visitors an opportunity to learn more about the issues of food security and nutrition, sustainability, poverty reduction, development cooperation and the UN’s work to build a world free from hunger.