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Circular Food Systems to Fulfill the Right to Healthy Food in Indonesian Cities

A systemic and circular approach to fighting food waste and malnutrition to fulfil citizens’ right to healthy food in Surakarta and Denpasar

Photo of Charlotte Flechet
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Rikolto International, represented by Rikolto in Indonesia

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Large NGO (over 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

1) Gita Pertiwi – small NGO – registration number 64/1991 on 21 December 1991 2) Pusat Pendidikan Lingkungan Bali – small NGO – registration number 03/2014 in September 2015 3) City governments of Surakarta and Denpasar

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Leuven (Belgium - country of registration) but operating out of Denpasar, Bali (regional office of Rikolto in Indonesia)

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Surakarta, a city in Central Java covering 44 km2 and Denpasar, the capital of Bali covering 128 km2. 665 km separate them.

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Rikolto in Indonesia is part of the international network organisation Rikolto. We’ve been working in Indonesia for over 50 years with offices in Surakarta and Denpasar. All our staff is Indonesian, hailing from the various islands that compose the archipelago. Our aim is to meet the growing demand of consumers for sustainably produced and healthy food through the creation and facilitation of innovative inclusive business models. Specifically, our Food Smart Cities (FSC) initiative in Indonesia promotes sustainable food consumption, healthy diets and collaborative efforts to reduce food waste.

Since 2017, Rikolto and Gita Pertiwi have engaged the city authorities, schools, catering associations, hotels, restaurants and several Community Based Organisations (CBOs) of Surakarta City. Together we promote healthy school canteens, food donation and food sharing, urban farming and food waste management. Linking this initiative with Rikolto’s successful organic rice programme in the neighbouring Boyolali District, we promote shorter and more direct market linkages between producers and consumers.

In Denpasar, the government has agreed to be part of the vision while businesses in the city are even more supportive toward waste reduction policies already implemented by the Governor of Bali. Rikolto will develop and realize the vision with PPLH Bali in Denpasar where our regional office is located. Rikolto staff want to actively join the action to transform their city’s food system. PPLH Bali has been active since 2012 in sustainable development. It supports the city government to become a Zero Waste City and helps Women Farmer Groups to develop urban agriculture solutions.

Rikolto has initiated several studies to support our FSC actions: on food literacy, consumption patterns and access to healthy food; legal framework for leftover food in hotels, restaurants and caterings; observation report on school canteens; and good practices on food waste management.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Surakarta is the centre of the predominantly Muslim Javanese culture and is popular amongst domestic tourists. With 40% of the population, the Javanese are the biggest ethnic group in Indonesia. Denpasar is the centre of the Hinduist Bali island and a popular destination both for domestic as well as international tourists.  We chose these cities, because they can learn from each other’s best practices thereby also helping to overcome ethno-religious prejudices. Both are centrally positioned to be role models for other Indonesian cities. In the case of Denpasar, this holds even for other countries, as many tourists come from China and South-East-Asia. In many respects, both are typical mid-sized (between 500,000 and 1 million inhabitants) Indonesian cities. While Surakarta is famous for its Nasi Liwet (rice cooked in coconut milk, chicken broth and spices) Denpasar is the home of babi guling (whole spit-roast pig) a special delicacy of Bali.

Nowadays, they are becoming ever more diverse with residents consisting of locals and non-locals. An increasing number of middle-income families and people are shifting their preferences to a more convenient way of living which is reflected in their consumption patterns. They have changed their lifestyle: travelling more, dining out more and with a higher preference for fast food. A recent food consumption report by Nielsen found that 11% of Indonesians eat out at least once a day. This contributes to increases in food waste, especially in urban areas. In a 2018 research by Rikolto, YLKI, PIB, and Gita Pertiwi, we found that organic waste amounted to 60-70% of total waste during holidays and weekends in Surakarta. While no data is available for Denpasar, an even higher figure is expected due to its status as tourism capital of Indonesia.

The city leaders of Surakarta and Denpasar want to be the frontrunners in creating modern and liveable cities in Indonesia. At first, they focused on creating smart cities from the viewpoint of technology and physical infrastructure. Now they are starting to pay attention to soft aspects such as empowerment, environment and culture. This provides a good opportunity to bring new ideas to help them transform into food smart cities for current and future generations.

Some youth and female groups in Surakarta have launched initiatives to encourage food donation and food sharing to low income communities. To support this movement, Rikolto and Gita Pertiwi have engaged the city's Health Department and actors from the hotel, restaurant, and catering industry to produce a draft Standard Operating Procedure to improve the health and safety of food sharing activities. The city government has invited Rikolto and Gita Pertiwi to contribute to the formulation of policies on food waste reduction and responsible waste management. Denpasar, on the other hand, aims to become a zero-waste city.

Indonesia is the most generous country in the world according to the 2018 CAF World Giving Index. This generous mentality explains the existence of countless solidarity initiatives – and their impact could be multiplied if only they were all connected.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Indonesia is facing challenges that will heavily impact its food system: economic growth is expected to be around 5.6% per year while the population is estimated to reach 300 million by 2030. Both factors will increase demand for food, land, energy and water, and potentially escalate greenhouse gas emissions.

Environment: Despite high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition, Indonesia is the world’s second biggest food waster per capita, with 300 kg of food waste per person per year (Food Sustainability Index, Barilla Centre for Food & Nutrition). FAO (2013) estimated that the carbon footprint is equivalent to 3.3 billion tons of CO2 per year. If global food waste were a country, it would be the world's 3rd largest GHG emitter. National emissions are projected to rise to 2.9 million gigagrams CO2 by 2030 with the biggest share coming from agriculture, forestry, land-use change and peat fires.

Diets: Low income and increasing food prices limit access to healthy diets especially for the poor. Low-income households spend about 65% of their total income on food. A study by the World Food Programme found that 36% of the national population cannot afford a ‘staple-adjusted nutritious diet’ – i.e. the least expensive diet that meets the recommended levels of energy, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals (Vermeulen, 2019). The 2018 Global Hunger Index ranked Indonesia 73rd of 119 countries. Child stunting affects 37% of Indonesian children under the age of 5 (World Bank, 2018). Without any fundamental change, it will continue at this rate. This is more than 10% above the global average (Vermeulen, 2019). In Surakarta 48 percent of the food offered in school canteens consists of junk food (Gita Pertiwi, 2018).

Economics: Stunted children achieve lower grades, leading to lower-income jobs. In addition, non-communicable diseases are rising in the country (Indonesia Basic Health Research, 2018). Both factors impact economic growth. Food industry and traditional markets also face challenges to manage food waste as its treatment bears extra costs and sustainable practices are not implemented.

Culture: In Indonesia, serving guests abundant food is a form of generosity and prestige which leads to waste.

Technology: So far, too little effort has been made to develop technology to process food waste into energy or agricultural input as part of a circular economy approach. The potential of technology to make improvements to local food systems is still largely untapped.

Policy: Food is a transversal issue that cuts across sectoral boundaries. Improving local food systems requires engaging a diverse actors in co-creating solutions. City governments, however, do not have integrated local food policies, despite increasing interest at the national level to localise food action. Also, local food security agencies, that are mandated to take action on food and nutrition, do not fully engage civil society, private sector, and academia in food-related dialogues.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

In order to fulfil our vision…

Environment: community-based organisations (CBOs) will contribute to tackling the food consumption’s aspect of climate change by raising the awareness of city residents and local the food industry through campaigns on responsible food consumption and the impact of food waste on GHG emissions.

Diets: (1) Local distribution channels for edible food surpluses will be mainstreamed to low income urban communities in Surakarta and Denpasar to reduce the percentage of income spent on food; (2) affordable healthy school canteens will be the norm and junk food will no longer be served in schools; and (3) both local governments and businesses in the two cities will be implementing circular food policies and programmes to increase dietary diversity among low-income communities.

Economics: Public-private partnerships (PPP) will carry the development of circular business models in partnership with women and youth-led SMEs. This collaboration will contribute to increasing the affordability and availability of healthy food in the two cities while generating income for small-scale entrepreneurs and reducing the costs of disposing of food waste. These initiatives will demonstrate the strong business case in favour of reducing food waste and encourage other economic actors to follow-suit.

Culture: (1) Information on healthy and responsible food consumption will be widely available at household and food industry level, leading to a change of mindset and behaviour towards first, reduced food waste, and ultimately zero waste; (2) food donations will become the new way of showing solidarity with the poor.

Technology: Technology will provide the technical and logistical basis to (1) realise the circular business models that will transform food surpluses and waste into fertilizer, energy, and delicious safe meals and (2) enable a shorter and more direct market linkage between local healthy food producers and consumers in the city.

Policy: (1) CBOs are empowered to participate in food policy making at city level; (2) city authorities and private sector partners have measurable and ambitious policies and regulations on circular and sustainable food management; (3) a thriving Community of Practice (CoP) on fair and sustainable urban food systems is setting the agenda on sustainable food in the cities; and (4) Surakarta and Denpasar are learning from each other’s good practices thanks to thorough knowledge management that documents successful models, good practices, toolkits, and standards operating procedures to inspire and facilitate their adoption by other cities in Indonesia.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Environment: The environment as far as it is affected by food production and consumption has been noticeably improved: food-waste related GHG emissions have been substantially reduced and regenerative food production is adopted by urban and peri-urban producers thanks to an increase in demand for sustainable food.

Diets: Undernutrition no longer exists. All citizens have access to culturally appropriate, affordable, healthy, balanced and sustainable food. There are no more new stunted children. Diets are diverse and balanced, leading to improved health in both cities.

Economics: The production cost of healthy food, its market price and the income of food producers, are balanced so that farming can sustain the livelihood of farmers. Households’ spending on healthy food is reduced to maximum 30% of their income, and the circular food economy generates a living income for all involved. There are no more economic losses due to stunting. The nutrition related costs of the public health system have been reduced substantially.

Culture: Food awareness has become deeply ingrained into the culture of the people of Surakarta and Denpasar, spurring them to eat healthily without overeating and donate safe food to the poor. At school, children are informed about the importance of a good diet. Choosing healthy food has become a new norm.

Technology: Whatever the state of agro-technology in 2050, its users will be aware of their responsibility towards public health and the environment. Technology will be efficiently used, minimizing energy consumption and the emission of harmful substances. Thanks to technology, consumers are directly connected to food producers and food surpluses and are aware of how food is produced.

Policy: Policymakers are promoting healthy food consumption by issuing and enforcing regulations, performing quality controls, and collaborating with diverse stakeholders. Both cities are involved in networks to share their experiences and learn from others.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

In our vision, the local food systems of Surakarta and Denpasar are delivering healthy and nutritious food to all their citizens. Food producers’ livelihoods are resilient and enable them to live a decent life, the impact of the food system on climate change is mitigated, and the ecosystems that underpin food production and consumption are healthy and regenerating. Below, we describe what this vision looks like for 6 key dimensions of regenerative and nourishing food systems.

Environment: Informed city residents and the local food industry reduce the amount of food waste they produce and manage their food surpluses responsibly either through donations of edible food surpluses to those in need or by processing the waste into compost or fodder to feed animals. The environmental impact of this circular approach to food is threefold: 1) less pressure on agro-ecosystems: food production requires large quantities of water, soil and inputs – when the food is wasted, all those resources are wasted too. 2) less GHG emissions: food production and distribution generate a lot of GHG emissions from land use, storage, transportation, etc. Reducing the amount of food that is wasted, also reduces GHG emissions and 3) more environmentally-friendly diets: in our vision, citizens will choose low-carbon and environmentally-friendly food products over conventional ones, driving a transition to regenerative agriculture.

Diets: All the school canteens in the two cities provide nutritious and hygienic food to students and teachers according to the “healthy canteen standard” developed by multiple city departments responsible for health and education. Initially, an annual competition on healthy school canteen encourages schools to participate and eventually all schools will adopt this standard. Schools engage students in canteen management by involving them in food selection while the Health Agency regularly monitors the safety of the food. The schools pay greater attention to water sanitation and good personal hygiene practices. Education to healthy food at schools changes students’ perception of food and contributes to a societal change in mindset leading to a generalised preference for healthy and sustainable food in the long run.

Our goal is for every child in Solo to have access to healthy food. School is a second home for children, where they spend at least eight hours a day for at least nine years. Healthy eating and drinking are therefore essential to feel good and perform well”, Titik Eka Sasanti, Director of Gita Pertiwi.

Following the Indonesian tradition, food donations and food sharing activities are regularly organised by groups of concerned citizens whose number is increasing over time. All of the food packages consist of a balanced portion of vegetables, protein and carbohydrates. They follow standard operating procedures for food donation to prevent food poisoning and are based on a widespread collaboration between community-based organisations, the retail industry and food businesses, with a solid logistical organisation. Food sharing enables the most vulnerable populations in the 2 cities to acquire nutritionally adequate and safe food. As a result, there is a substantial reduction of the cases of malnutrition.

In addition, the new paradigm of a circular food economy, endorsed by local authorities, businesses and civil society, will create new opportunities for city residents to prepare for a self-sufficient future through urban farming. Initial testing in Surakarta demonstrated the role of urban farming in increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables. In 2050, urban farming will have become a very popular activity, supported by an enabling policy and financial environment in the city, and contributing to healthy diets.

Economics: The green circular food economy contributes to higher revenues for all businesses involved, particularly small SMEs that are led by youth and women. Circular business models between retailers, wholesalers and SMEs will especially benefit youth and women who will generate income from processing food waste into compost which is then used to fertilize their urban gardens. The produce from their gardens is then sold to formal and informal markets in their respective city while contributing to their own food supply. The combination of a shorter food supply chain, the ability to produce their own food, and the awareness to buy only the food that is needed leads to lower spending on food at household level.   

The internal policies of the food industry in Surakarta and Denpasar reflect their commitment to contribute to a more sustainable and circular food system. This is expressed in their policies on supply (e.g. opting for fresh and sustainably produced food from the neighbouring area, purchasing at optimum amount), on processing (e.g. use of ecologically responsible materials and application of processing practices that retain nutrition in food), on delivery (e.g. preference for easily degradable materials, delivery options that keep the food safe) and in storing/waste handling (e.g. use of proper equipment to keep the food fresh, distribution of edible food surpluses to those in need or for further processing). By managing food waste, businesses can reduce their operational costs.

“Since 2013, we’ve been actively working to prevent food waste, first and foremost for financial reasons. I thought it would be financially beneficial to use our stocks more efficiently. There is an oversupply of hotels in Surakarta, which makes for an average occupancy rate of only 40 percent. Food prices also rose sharply during that time. Thirty percent of our total costs went to purchasing food. Now, six years later, that is reduced to 25 percent. A significant difference.” - Mr Bambang – Indah Palace Hotel Manager in Surakarta

As beneficiaries of food sharing, poor families have improved their diets and health. Consequently, city governments in Surakarta and Denpasar spend less on health treatment and invest more in health prevention to improve the wellbeing of their citizens which will eventually make them more productive.

Culture: With better information, Surakarta and Denpasar’s naturally generous citizens are motivated to widely increase their food donations and sharing. Citizens are well-connected to community-based organisations who coordinate among themselves to make their sharing actions more effective and achieve a multiplier effect. Working together as part of local food coalitions or networks, local authorities, CBOs, the local food industry, and higher education institutions, stimulate a culture of innovation and experimentation in the food sector. Private and public food champions inspire city residents to better respect food and those who produce it. Wide coverage on social media helps to promote responsible food consumption. This includes adopting new habits related to healthy eating, producing zero food waste, not overeating, and distributing edible food surpluses to those in need. Genuine circular innovation means preventing food waste from being created in the first place. Together, those actors are turning around the negative consequences of Indonesians’ generosity (offering too much food) and using it to transform the city’s food system towards more sustainability and fairness.

Technology: Technology that is practical, efficient, affordable and does not harm health and the environment is available and used in the circular food business economy and in making food supply chains shorter. It is easily operated by ordinary people especially women and youth and is easily replicated by other groups. Information technology allows for good planning and management of waste collection and processing into fertilizers and energy. In addition, it supports food SMEs active in the circular food economy to adequately plan and manage their sales. Technological innovations in the food production sector support a regenerative agriculture that delivers safe and hygienic produce.

Technology also enables a direct relationship between food producers and consumers. It allows consumers to be informed of production processes and the efforts required to produce good food. It will enable communication between consumers and producers on their needs and preferences; and will reconnect consumers to their food by allowing them to see the human perspective behind their meal.   

Overall, the use of appropriate technology by the local food industry in purchasing, storing, processing and selling food provides city residents with healthy and safe food. 

Policy: City governments engage all stakeholders in transforming local policies to create fair and sustainable urban food systems and fulfill citizens’ right to food. Inputs from citizens, businesses and academia are taken into account in formulating policies to reduce waste, improve waste management, promote circular business and address the needs of poor and marginalised urban communities. Additionally, the action supports the two city governments to achieve their targets of becoming ‘zero waste cities by 2025’. The local city governments, food industry partners, CBOs and academia are engaged in a local Community of Practice on circular and sustainable food systems; sharing their experiences in food policy formulation, implementation and monitoring; disseminating the circular business models, standard and toolkits piloted in the two cities; and proposing innovative measures to improve urban food systems in Indonesia. A healthy competition between Surakarta and Denpasar provides incentives for the two cities to improve themselves. When this vision is achieved, Surakarta and Denpasar will inspire other cities to sustainably shape their food system so that current and future generations can enjoy tasty food on a healthy planet.

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Attachments (6)

Organisation and mission.docx

Description of Rikolto's organisation and mission

Factsheet_school_canteens in Solo and Depok.pdf

Factsheet - How Healthy is Food Served at School Canteens? Observation in Depok and Solo (in English)

Observation report on school canteens in Solo and Depok - Ford Foundation Rikolto PIB GP YLKI.pdf

Observation report on school canteens in Solo and Depok (in Indonesian)

Legal framework and leftover food in hotels, restaurants, and catering in Solo and Depok - YLKI.pdf

Analysis of the legal framework for managing food surpluses in hotels, restaurants and catering in Solo and Depok (in Indonesian)

Food literacy, consumption, and access to healthy food in Solo and Depok - Ford Foundation Rikolto GP YLBI PIB.pdf

Report on food literacy, consumption and access to healthy food in Solo and Depok (in Indonesian)


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Photo of Jun Suto

hi Charlotte Flechet thank you for sharing your great efforts in creating a circular economy. Love it! Keep up a good work!

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