Healthy Food City Symposium

Co-creating urban food solutions for future residents


The progress in agricultural technology and the evolution of the food industry have led to increased abundance and accessibility of food. Nevertheless, they have also introduced fresh challenges, as children in urban settings confront a food crisis marked by the widespread availability, accessibility, and heavy promotion of unhealthy options. This alarming situation is contributing directly to the growing challenge of obesity among children. To address this critical concern and uphold children's right to nutrition, cities are being called upon to take decisive action. City mayors from across the world are getting together through entities such as the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact1 and C40 Cities to unite in actions for better food systems and to combat climate change.

Cities in China too are turning their attention to improving food environments for children in response to the increase in child obesity. Many of these children will go on to live with obesity in adulthood, facing stigma, depression, poor school attainment2, ill health and the prospect of earlier death. Health, social and economic systems are ill equipped to cope with the direct and indirect costs. The impact of overweight and obesity among children threatens the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.

The causes of the rapid rise in childhood obesity are complex, and the global consensus has shifted from an emphasis on individual level factors to an increasing recognition of the impact of
food environments. UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children Report 20193 highlights the challenges faced by children in urban settings, where the consumption of unhealthy, ultra-processed foods has become increasingly common and outdoor spaces to play are limited. The need to transform the food environment by bringing in robust policies nationwide and in cities is clear and urgent.

China has been extremely successful in reducing levels of child undernutrition (stunting and wasting) over the last 20 years. It is now demonstrating global leadership in addressing the challenge of child overweight and obesity. Cities, such as Chengdu and Shenzhen, are already taking action through urban planning and governance measures. They are generating and inspiring changes that will make healthy and sustainable eating a reality for all children. The Chengdu Healthy Food City Symposium builds on these foundations.

2 UNICEF (2020). Nutrition, for Every Child: UNICEF Nutrition Strategy 2020–2030. UNICEF. New York.
3 UNICEF (2019). The State of the World’s Children 2019. Children, Food and Nutrition: Growing well in a changing world. UNICEF. New York.

Healthy Food City Symposium

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