Buy Better Food initiative calls for targets to boost healthier and more sustainable meals in schools and public settings

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Use public procurement to make healthy and sustainable food more easily accessible and affordable to all Europeans, a leading MEP together with local governments and campaigners told EU leaders today.

The Buy Better Food initiative comes as the European Commission prepares a new legislative framework – the Sustainable Food System initiative – which promises to set minimum criteria for the sustainable and healthy public procurement of food across the EU. 

The coalition wants EU institutions and member states to recognise, champion and finance public food procurement as a “game-changer” for healthier and more sustainable diets based on organic and nutritious fruits and vegetables as well as more plant-based proteins and less but better meat, as advocated in the EU’s roadmap for better food known as the Farm to Fork Strategy.  

The group says mandatory targets for better meals would also help public procurement become a driver of change in the way we produce and eat food steering Europe towards a more resilient and equitable food system.

Influential MEP Sarah Wiener, who was shadow rapporteur of the European Parliament report on the Farm to Fork Strategy and is a well known Austrian chef and organic farmer, said: “Public procurement has the opportunity to incentivise more organic, sustainable and local production, leading to healthier diets and a fairer distribution of food in society. It is therefore high time that the EU sets targets to promote organic, sustainable and regional food in public canteens, in hospitals and in schools!” 

“Public procurement has the opportunity to incentivise more organic, sustainable and local production, leading to healthier diets and a fairer distribution of food in society”

At the local level, an increasing number of municipalities are making important steps in this direction, anticipating the rules being considered by the European Commission. The city of Ghent (Belgium), for example, has put in place an award-winning food strategy combining targets for food waste reduction, climate action and support for small farmers.

Tamara Bruning, head of catering services at the city of Ghent, said: “The city of Ghent has committed to building a more sustainable and healthy food system through better public procurement. Improving our canteen and catering services can help our city reach climate neutrality by 2050, while also upholding the principles of wellbeing, fairness and inclusion for our citizens and future generations.

As a local government, we constantly strive to find new solutions to today’s social, health and environmental problems, and are happy to share our knowledge and experience with other European cities.”

Another example is the city of Mouans-Sartoux (France) which has a long history of procuring food which is healthy for both people and the planet. As Gilles Parole, deputy mayor of the city of Mouans-Sartoux, explained:Mouans-Sartoux’s school canteens have been serving 100% organic and mostly local meals for 10 years now. Facing  disruptions to food supply chains and burdensome tendering procedures, the city created the first municipal farm in France in 2011 which supplies around 90% of the vegetables consumed by children. Thanks to this experience, we know that public bids can provide local authorities with “purchase power” to make local food systems more sustainable. We now need the European institutions to do their part and include food-related rules in the EU’s public procurement directive.

Beyond Brussels, the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation have also called for a more responsible use of public food procurement that works for people, workers and the environment. The Buy Better Food coalition says that recent crises Europeans are facing, from the Covid pandemic to the war in Ukraine, highlight the need to accelerate change towards a more resilient and sustainable food system that provides healthy food to all.

To find out more about Buy Better Food visit the webpage.

Image: Buy Better Food coalition 

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