26 March 2021

City food procurement - innovations and challenges from Ghent and Copenhagen

Schools, hospitals, prisons, retirement homes… there are huge amounts of food purchased by our public administrations. We should thus ask ourselves: which criteria are being applied? Is price the sole priority? Are the Sustainable Development Goals being taken into account when choosing suppliers?

A recent interview carried out by CEMAS - an initiative from the Valencia City Council - of two well-known specialists on sustainable food sheds some light on some of their challenges and personal experiences, and goes into detail also about some of their recent achievements. These are Tamara Bruning, Head of Cleaning and Catering Services for the City of Ghent and member of the Eating City public services food discussion group; and Betina Bergmann Madsen, Senior Consultant specialised within procurement of food at the City of Copenhagen and a Member of the Stakeholder Expert Group on Public Procurement for the European Commission.

Ghent started their new school catering contract on the 1 of January significantly lowering the consumption of meat in their school meals by offering flexi-meals. This means that the protein in the meal consists of 50 percent animal protein and 50 percent plant-based. Ghent's catering company redesigned all the recipes and came up with new dishes like burgers made from beef and oyster mushrooms (grown on coffee grounds) which kids love.

Copenhagen have been working some of the SDGs into their procurement as a 'contract tool' to follow up on SDG-related requirements, such as transportation and waste. A so-called 'climate weight' is being used to give more points to food that is most nutritious and sustainable and thereby better for the future. Copenhagen also look to provide as much diversity as possible from the fruit and vegetables they offer in school meals. This not only offers benefits for improving biodiversity, but is also useful for childhood education regarding seasonality.

ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability is in the process of setting up an Interest Group on Sustainable School Food Procurement - where practitioners from cities can meet on a regular basis to discuss their issues and discover new opportunities. If you are interested in finding out more contact