Food Security in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

School Feeding

This is the fifth in a six-part series featuring case studies that illustrate what regenerative urban development looks like in practice.

The city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil has made significant advances in securing food for its 2.5 million inhabitants, thanks to its comprehensive policy framework for food sovereignty, which won the Future Policy Award 2009 of the World Future Council.



The policy was based largely on a municipal law stipulating the right to food and the duty of the government to uphold this right. The Secretariat for Food Policy and Supply was founded to help reach the goals of the Belo Horizonte Food Security Programme.

“Regenerative cities need regenerative food systems.” –Dr Cecilia Rocha, Director and AssociateProfessor, School of Nutrition, Ryerson University, at FCF 2013

A central tenet was reinforcing support for local and regional farmers and family farms in particular. The policy attempts to reduce food prices by directly linking local producers and consumers and diminishing the role of wholesalers in the supply chain. Local producers are given market space to sell their products within the city, resulting in more customers. Government purchase is also encouraged to stimulate local and diversified agricultural production as well as income generation.

The secretariat developed several programmes to tackle hunger and malnutrition and simultaneously strengthened family farm-based food production in the surrounding areas. To support local production, the municipal government provides subsidised agricultural credit, crop insurance and technical assistance.

The Food Acquisition Programme supports the commercialisation of products from small farms by creating institutional markets for them, thus ensuring sufficient sales potential. This is also guaranteed by a requirement – though as yet unmet – that at least 30% of funding for the national school meals programme must be spent on purchasing food from family farms. By promoting urban gardening in schools through the Food Security Programme, the children and youth of Belo Horizonte gain experience in self-sufficient resource provision and learn about locally based and healthy nutrition.

Triggered by the programme, the city also started to plant fruit trees in public space, demonstrating that squares could serve as food sources as well.

A central result of the policy framework was the near elimination of hunger in Belo Horizonte at a cost of a mere two percent of the city’s annual budget. In addition, the policy has had multiple positive side effects as there is now a closer interaction between small rural producers and urban consumers. The programme is also reducing rural-urban migration by giving family farmers fresh prospects to continue their work.

While many modern cities may not have the ability to feed all their inhabitants, Belo Horizonte is evidence that it is possible to enhance nutrition by making use of family farms on the urban periphery. This kind of farming contributes to a regenerative food system and in so doing to overall regenerative urban development. While the city is not food self-sufficient, policy support for local and regional farms allows it to reduce the radius of its food sources. This strengthens the linkage of the city with its surrounding area by increasing their interdependence.

This text is an excerpt from a new report by the World Future Council on Regenerative Urban Development: A roadmap to the city we need.

WFC report Regenerative Urban Development cover thumbnailThe report is an outcome of the discussions at the Future of Cities Forum 2013 surrounding the vision of regenerative cities. It explores a selection of the case studies presented at the Forum to outline the value creation resulting from regenerative urban development, the obstacles in the way of progress, and tools to help overcome those challenges.

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014