Tucson, UNESCO City of Gastronomy

Tucson Joins the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a City of Gastronomy

In 2015 the City of Tucson partnered with the University of Arizona Southwest Center and College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, media partner Edible Baja Arizona magazine, and other community partners in seeking recognition of our region’s rich agricultural heritage, thriving food traditions, and culinary distinctiveness through a "City of Gastronomy" designation by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 47 cities join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network


Read the City of Tucson press release 

Read the 2015 application

Read letters of support from national culinary associations


  Read the 2014 publication “Tucson, Arizona – An International Culinary Destination”




Media Coverage

Tucson's UNESCO designation and the reasons it qualified have been topics of local, national, and international media coverage.


"Why Tucson is the Best Food City in Arizona," by Gwen Ashley Walters (Jan 1, 2017).


Food Tank

"Grassroots Community Initiatives Revitalize Tucson's Food Economy," by Marisa Tsai (Nov 15, 2016).


Vancouver Sun

"Arizona's unique desert diet: Tucson becomes a first entry in UNESCO's Creative Cities for gastronomy," by Pat Brennan (Nov 15, 2016).


Edible Baja Arizona Magazine

"Food from Somewhere: The power of place-based labeling to support a local food economy," by Jonathan Mabry and Gary Nabhan (Nov/Dec 2016).


Arizona Public Media

"Feeding Our Future: Incubating Food Start-Ups in the City of Gastronomy," by Laura Markowitz (Sept 19. 2016).


New York Times

"Tucson Becomes an Unlikely Food Star," by Kim Severson (August 23, 2016).


USA Today

"Chasing the sources in Tucson's budding food scene," by Ashley Day (August 19, 2016).


The Guardian

"Tucson, Arizona, cultivates its foodie reputation - with a nod from UNESCO," by Kate Eshelby (July 17, 2016).


Arizona Daily Star

"City of Gastronomy honor is about more than food," by Elizabeth Eaton (May 9, 2016).


Arizona Public Media

"World City of Gastronomy," by Andrew Brown (April 28, 2016).


Splendid Table

"UNESCO recognizes Tucson as a City of Gastronomy," by Von Diaz (April 1, 2016).



"Tucson Gains International Food Fame," by Edie Jarolim (Mar 30, 2016).


Downtown Tucsonan

"Tucson's UNESCO City of Gastronomy Designation Has Roots in Downtown," by Brad Poole (Jan 25, 2016).



"What Makes Tucson Deserving of the Title of the United States' First Capital of Gastronomy" by Jennifer Nalewicki (Jan 13, 2016).


Food Tank

"What Will a UNESCO City of Gastronomy Designation Do for Tucson and for Other Cities?" by Gary Paul Nabhan (Dec 21, 2015)


 Edible Baja Arizona Magazine 

"A World of Gastronomy," by Gary Nabhan and Jonathan Mabry (May, 2016)


"Intangible Heritage," by Jonathan Mabry (March/April 2016)


"Tucson Designated UNESCO World City of Gastronomy" by Megan Kimble (Dec 2015)


“A Gastronomy of Place by Megan Kimble (Jan/Feb 2015)


Voices: Culinary Traditions (Jan/Feb 2014)

"What culinary traditions, innovations, ingredients, celebrations, or institutions make Tucson worthy of being designated a UNESCO City of Gastronomy?"


Heritage City by Megan Kimble (Jan/Feb 2014)


Ark of Taste recipes (Jan/Feb 2015)


"Home Is Where the Prickly Pears Are" by Barbara Kingsolver and Steven Hopp (Inaugural issue, June 2013)


 Tucson Weekly 

The Road to UNESCO by Heather Hoch (Dec 3, 2015)



The UNESCO Creative Cities Network

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network was created in 2004 to promote cooperation among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development. The cities in this network work together towards a common objective: placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level.

Prior to the 2015 designations, the Network included 69 cities in 32 countries covering seven creative fields: Crafts & Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Music and Media Arts. As of 2014, the US had three designated cities: Iowa City, IA (City of Literature), Santa Fe, NM (City of Crafts & Folk Art), and Paducah, KY (City of Crafts & Folk Art).

Learn about the Creative Cities Network



Food Policies and Measures by the City of Tucson


In 2013, Tucson voters ratified Plan Tucson, the City's 10-year General and Sustainability Plan. Urban agriculture policies included in the plan promote reducing barriers to food production; adopting regulations supporting the production of local foods; fostering an equitable, healthy local and regional food system; and collaborating with partners in facilitating new opportunities for urban-scale gardens and farms.


The City has built community gardens for public housing projects and allowed community gardens in public parks.


The City conducted a public process to revise the City’s zoning regulations to remove barriers for urban agriculture and local food sales, including home and community gardens, urban farms, greenhouses, farmers’ markets, and small animal husbandry in residential areas.


The City's Food & Nutrition goal received a rating of 11.8 on a 15-point scale in its national STAR Community Sustainability certification, and its progress is being monitored.


The City of Tucson Commission on Food Security, Heritage, and Economy was created in 2015 to advise the Mayor and Council on matters relating to the local food system; provide a common forum for member organizations; develop food access, food security, nutrition, and economic development goals and strategies; communicate with other U.S. and international communities to identify best practices; identify potential funding or other resources; and recommend improvements to city policies and regulations to strengthen the local food system.


The City has expanded a pilot composting program started in 2014 by the University of Arizona student group Compost Cats, who collect, deliver, and process food and green waste from participating groceries, restaurants, and hotels. The compost is prepared with equipment at the Tohono O'odham Nation's San Xavier Co-op Farm, and sold at local farmers' markets and used in City parks.




Food Studies and Programs at the University of Arizona 

The University of Arizona is a world leader in research on agriculture, nutrition, biodiversity conservation, and cultural foodways, and engages the community with many food-education programs.

Learn about current food studies and programs at the U of A