​New ranking compares food security in cities

Published on
October 8, 2019

Wageningen Economic Research developed a new city ranking tool which compares how the 850 largest cities in the world manage to provide their inhabitants with sufficient and nutritious food. "We invite city administrators to collaborate with us on developing this tool - the 'Cities & Food Security' ranking - and implementing it for their specific city," says Peter Ravensbergen.

The ranking indicates how easy or difficult it is for people in the different cities to obtain sufficient and nutritious food. Cities in Europe and the US are generally secure in their food supply. Cities in Africa and Asia, particularly the largest and fastest growing cities without ports or good connections with the outside world, are most likely to be unable to feed their inhabitants.

Broad scope

"The ranking looks at five dimensions of food security, and uses several measurable indicators for each dimension," says Peter Ravensbergen, business developer at Wageningen Economic Research, who launched the tool during an international summit of over 200 mayors in Montpellier on 8 October. The availability of food is partly measured by calculating the area around the city that can be used for food production. Accessibility relates to the logistics capacity, such as the availability and accessibility of roads and ports. Affordability is another dimension, determined by the average income of the people. A healthy diet is important as well. This is determined by looking at BMI, the sanitary situation, children's growth curves, etc. Finally, the ranking looks at risks to the food supply in the city, such as flooding as a result of climate change.


Researchers from Wageningen Economic Research developed a model that brings all these aspects together using figures available from the FAO and World Bank, among others.

Cities can compare themselves to other cities
Peter Ravensbergen

"and determine which dimension of food security requires improvement, such as the production of food near the city, logistics, or affordability." Comparisons are possible for each of the dimensions per region or country, but also with cities with comparable size or population growth. Examples of this would be an overview of how large cities in Asia perform in relation to nutritious food or a list of inland cities in Africa with rapid population growth.

Learn from each other

Ravensbergen indicates that currently the ranking provides a general estimate of the situation in a city, as it uses commonly available data that is only provided at the country level in some cases. "The tool that we offer on the website today [link to] can increase awareness of risks and opportunities. We want to talk to city administrators and policy makers to exchange knowledge and data in order to improve the ranking." This requires more specific local data about cities, potentially with more indicators, and by making the data more comparable. To achieve this, Ravensbergen is looking for collaborations with administrators of cities and international organisations such as the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact. "This ranking has the potential to become a solid and internationally accepted benchmark."

In addition, Ravensbergen wants to talk to city mayors/administrators about their specific city. "Through further research we can develop the tool for their situation. For instance, to determine why a city scores poorly in a particular dimension and then also provide recommendations for improvements. To provide a basis for these concrete measures, detailed data needs to be used, data that is particular to that city."

The ranking currently includes a ranking of the 25 largest cities of each continent. This is a static website. The objective is to present a dynamic website soon, which will enable comparisons between all 850 of the world's largest cities. More specific comparisons and rankings can be created for cities upon request.