Food: The Link between City and Countryside

In spring 2007 the Amsterdam Food Strategy entitled Proeftuin Amsterdam , which was inspired by the London Food Strategy, commenced. Proeftuin Amsterdam combines policies, initiatives and activities which serve the following objectives in Amsterdam and the surrounding region:

  • Provide naturally-grown and preferably local food for everybody while minimizing environmental impacts;
  • Promote healthy eating habits, especially among children & young people;
  • Achieve a balance between the demands of urban consumers and the supply of food products from the surrounding countryside;
  • Preserve the surrounding agricultural landscapes of Amsterdam.

In order to achieve these objectives Proeftuin Amsterdam seeks to act as lubricant for existing and emerging initiatives, as a facilitator for new alliances between public and private parties and as an initiator of new initiatives. Some examples of the targets of Proeftuin Amsterdam are:

  • The availability of organically produced and preferably local food in:
    • all school canteens;
    • municipal canteens, hospitals and care institutions;
    • the tourist industry;
    • local day markets.
  • Preserving agriculture in the immediate surroundings of the city for the long term.
  • Kitchen amenities in new schools.
  • Every primary school to have access to a nearby school working garden.
  • Simplified regulations for retail and day markets for organic and local food.
  • Reduction of food miles, lower emissions as a result of cleaner transport.
  • School curricula to include life style and eating habits.

According to a DG Regional Policy document about Proeftuin Amsterdam[i] the

“action programme for healthy and sustainable food chains has shown impressive impact and resonance. … This is especially evident for initiatives in the field of education (schools gardens, school meals, farm-related projects) and the promotion of regional markets to connect producers and consumers. All in all the Proeftuin Amsterdam testifies to the good sense of connecting environmental and health aspects of food systems with the preservation of the peri-urban area around Amsterdam. … Such regional food strategies can be instrumental in meeting the challenges Europe will have to face with respect to changing global food markets and demographic developments.”    

Despite the fact that Proeftuin Amsterdam has achieved, albeit sometimes partially, many of its initial goals and has inspired other cities in the Netherlands to incorporate food in urban development plans, the municipality has decided to end the programme by the end of this year, although some projects will continue in the Amsterdam boroughs. To mark the end of 4 years of Proeftuin Amsterdam a special issue of Plan Amsterdam, the magazine of the spatial planning department, about food has been issued entitled ‘Voedsel – Schakel tussen Stad en Platteland’. This special issue, in Dutch but with an English summary, reflects on Amsterdam’s food strategy but also contains a very interesting article about the history of the Amsterdam food markets.


[i] See http://www.proeftuin.amsterdam.nl/aspx/download.aspx?file=/contents/pages/100532/case_study_amsterdam_food_strategy.pdf

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