How school meals can drive local and regional change

Wed 9, October 2019
11:30 - 13:00 CET

Web streaming

Case studies show that investing €1 in sustainable school meals can bring up to €6 in social return on investment. If used strategically, sustainable food procurement is one of the most powerful tools that all governments levels have at their disposal to create stronger regional value chains.

Sustainable food procurement addresses agriculture, health, environment, climate action, jobs, rural development and culture in regions and cities.

This 30th ICLEI Breakfast at Sustainability's session will showcase good practice and discuss stronger support within EU policies such as EU procurement legislation (clarify 'local food" issue) and the CAP reform (food procurement for regional value capturing).

The session will see the participation of the rapporteur for the CoR opinion on sustainable food policy in Europe (Arno Kompatscher, President of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Italy) and the SDO Chair, Peter Schmidt, from the EESC, rapporteur for another opinion on healthy and sustainable diets - both referring to the importance of sustainable food procurement as a driver for more sustainable regional food systems.

Other speakers will include major cities, some part of the Organic Cities Network Europe (Paris, Florence, Vienna, Vaxjö, Nuremberg etc). ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, as the organiser has been working for over 20 years on sustainable public procurement and recently launched an initiative calling for mandatory, progressive sustainable food procurement in all EU schools and kindergartens with at least 20% from organic agriculture by 2022 as a starting point.

For more information: peter.defranceschi(at)iclei.org


Peter Defranceschi, Head of ICLEI Brussels Office, ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, Belgium.
Peter Defranceschi, Head of ICLEI Brussels Office, ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, Belgium.
Anya Hultberg, Consulting, City of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Arno Kompatscher, President of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano and Regional Councilor, CoR Rapporteur on Opinion on European Sustainable Food Policy, Autonomous Province of Bolzano / Committee of the Regions, Italy.
Peter Schmidt, Chair of the Sustainable Development Observatory, European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), EESEC, Germany.
Claudio Serafini, Director, Organic Cities European Network, Belgium.
Aurélie Solans, Environment Councilor, City of Paris, France.
A Europe Closer to Citizen
Deutsch (DE), English (EN), Français (FR), Italiano (IT)
JDE 62.
Address: Rue Belliard 101, 1040 Brussels

Session summary

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.




Additional information

  • 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"


Claudio Serafini 

"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"


Arno Kompatshcer

"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."

Peter Schmidt 

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’

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  • Posted by: Csilla KAPOSVARI
    On: 05/10/2019 - 11:32am

    Request participation

    Dear organizers, please be so kind to sign me up for this session if it is still possible. Merci
    • Posted by: Peter DEFRANCESCHI
      On: 05/10/2019 - 18:25pm

      Registration on the day

      A registration on the day should be possible as different people had difficulties registering through the 2-stage system. Please come with your ID or passport and we will find a solution.
      • Posted by: Csilla KAPOSVARI
        On: 08/10/2019 - 15:24pm


        Thank you for this info!