How school meals can drive local and regional change
The conference "How school meals can drive local to regional change" was the 30th Breakfast at Sustainability's, ICLEIs ongoing series of sustainability discussions, addressing the most urgent topics on the sustainable urban development agenda. The session addressed the question of what contribution school meals can make to sustainability and regional development.
Speakers discussed the CAP reform and the need for stronger support within EU policies, calling for more clarity in "local food" issues, pointing out to the lack of clear definitions.
Peter Defranceschi, organiser of the session and ICLEIs head of Brussels' office, highlighted the fact that if used strategically, sustainable food procurement is a powerful tool that governments have at their disposal to create stronger regional value chains.
Introductory remarks by Christof Kienel (Head of Unit of the Commission for Natural Resources) and Claudio Serafini (Directors of Organic Cities Network) highlighted the need for a systemic vision of food systems linking together different EU policy level.
Arno Kompatscher, President of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, drew attention to the existing constraints within public procurement rules pointing at the paradoxical situation we are facing. While there is much effort on making it possible for private consumers to consciously buy local, organic food (in line with von der Leyen's Farm to Fork Strategy), this is not the case when it comes to Public Procurement: the principles of EU market hinder the possibility for public tenders to make the same choice. According to the EU, bidding for regional products would distort competition and as a result, public tenders have to develop additional award criteria and find 'creative' solutions that empower local providers.
Peter Schmidt, from the EESC, called for the creation of a European Food Policy Council, which should be multi-stakeholder and multi-level, involving local and regional authorities and initiatives and for the creation of an Expert Group to formulate Europe-wide sustainable dietary guidelines.
Good practice examples were highlighted by Aurélie Solans from the city of Paris and Carsten Friis Toft from the city of Copenhagen.
In Paris, around 30 million meals are served in public canteens. The city council adopted in 2015 a sustainable food plan that explicitly emphasises local, organic and seasonal products and aims at reducing meat consumption by 20%. The plan is achieving remarkable results and in 2018 46.8% of meals served in public canteens were sustainably sourced, making the Paris municipality the leading public purchaser of organic food in France.
Copenhagen is reaching its goals of 100% organic food by focusing on investment in awareness-raising, market engagement prior, during and after the tendering process. Much emphasis was also put on dialogue with kitchen staff and on educating them to ensure they know how to work with products.
Take away message
Through sustainable food procurement a lot could be transformed, it should, therefore, be at the heart of public procurement.
Providing organic, local food in school canteens does not necessarily mean higher costs: case studies show that investing €1 in sustainable school meals can bring up to €6 in social return on investment.
There is the need to establish a link across different policy areas, ensuring consistency between all relevant EU legislation. More clarity within public procurement rules is crucial.
- Christof Kienel,
"sustainable food in school canteens and schools shows the role of the CoR and local and regional actors in Brussels to link local and regional expertise to decision making at EU level to see what works and what does not to help the EU to take better decisions"
"Today agriculture has the onerous task of nourishing the planet, delivering eco-systemic services and at the same time being economically, environmentally and socially sustainable"
"There are many goals: healthy nutrition, sustainable production, local cycles, and added value. Last but not least, this measure contributes to the active protection of European farmers, who are often exposed to the pressure of food wholesalers."
The EESC reiterates the importance of investing in education on sustainable diets from an early age to help young people appreciate the "value of food" in its nutritional but also economic, social and environmental dimensions. School meals are a fundamental tool to achieve this
Carsten Friis Toft
”we have the policies, now we need to make them a reality’