Smart Solutions

Biocanteens

A school catering initiative that prioritises the supply of locally produced organic food without additional costs.

Implemented inMouans-Sartoux

Country : France


What’s the solution?

A model that enables school canteens to serve organic, locally sourced meals without raising prices. The initiative involves a series of complementary activities to make it work: 1) changing procurement policies to enable publicly funded schools to prioritise organic local produce; 2) working with local producers to ensure a reliable supply of organic produce; 3) training canteen staff; 4) initiatives to reduce school food waste, which can by themselves offset the extra costs of purchasing organic produce and 5) raising pupil and family awareness of the benefits of organic food.  Biocanteens is thus an integrated solution that brings together people working in education, local businesses, territorial planning and food, as well as families and associations.

What makes it smart?

The solution is smart because it clearly combines social, environmental and economic objectives for the local community. It demonstrates an integrated approach to the following forms of innovation:

  • Economic innovation – it shows an effective approach to public procurement that does not purely prioritise the lowest priced goods but takes into account other important criteria such as the local and organic nature of the supply.
  • Promoting healthy lifestyles – by both supplying and educating around organic food in schools, young people and their families are encouraged to adopt healthy eating habits based around more nutritious food.
  • Business innovation – It initiates the creation of new jobs, directly or indirectly, by promoting the set-up of new organic farms in the municipality and supporting new initiatives linked with agriculture and the food sector.
  • Environmental sustainability – it promotes short-supply chains through the sourcing of local food, using organic production techniques that minimise the impact on the local environment.
  • Social innovation – the solution also brings together a set of players (farmers, sellers, local elected officials, researchers, NGOs...), within an integrated municipal governance framework that favours the sustainability of the model developed.

How is the solution implemented?

  1. Engage with local schools to help them commit to prioritising organic local meals and reducing food waste and support them through the process.
  2. Train canteen staff in preparing school meals using fresh ingredients and reducing and monitoring food waste.
  3. Train educators and other school and municipal staff in sustainable organic food – including to raise awareness about sustainable food amongst pupils and the families.
  4. Work with procurement authorities to favour sustainable procurement, adjusting supplier selection criteria to prioritise organic, local produce where possible.
  5. Engage with local producers to encourage the supply of local organic produce – including farmers and suppliers.
  6. Where possible, manage local territorial planning to ensure that land is made available for sustainable agriculture. (For an idea of scale, calculations show 135 hectares of agricultural land are needed for Mouans-Sartoux’s population of 10 000 to be self-sufficient in local food.)
  7. Set up food-waste reduction initiatives to offset the additional costs of purchasing organic food – such as helping students learn to estimate their appetite, weighing leftovers; encouraging smaller helpings, but enabling second portions for those that are still hungry and adapting menus.
  8. Define a plan for raising awareness about sustainable food among children, school staff, and their families. Actions may include: activities promoting sustainable food, communicating seasonal menus to parents, holding tasting days or open days.
  9. To improve stakeholder and citizen involvement, consider creating a Food policy Council. Ask for feedback on the initiative in order to improve. Also consider engaging more broadly with stakeholders, including consumers, restaurants, and organic shops and farms to encourage new start-ups in the sector within the community.
  10. Further structures and training can be developed after the launch of the project, such as an ‘Observatory for sustainable canteens’ to monitor the policy’s effects.

In what local context has it been applied?

Mouans-Sartoux is located in the Côte d´Azur, in the heart of the French Riviera, a highly urbanised mass-tourism destination with little space left for farmland. However, in the 1970s and 80s, facing an agricultural crisis, the municipality started encouraging an alternative, more sustainable, land-use model.

Mouans-Sartoux brought in strict territorial planning controls to limit sprawl and make land available for agriculture. The municipality acquired its own land for farming, and improved the public transport system, limiting the proliferation of roads and other construction projects.

In 1998, prompted by the crisis of mad cow disease, elected officials started looking into serving more organic food in school canteens. At that time, only 3% of produce used in school meals was organic.

It was this drive to renew access to local agriculture that led to the emergence of Biocanteens, a school catering project with benefits for citizens’ health and the environment.

Who was behind the implementation?

Biocanteens was led and delivered by the Municipality of Mouans-Sartoux in collaboration with a number of partners:

  • “Un plus BIO” (First French national network of organic school canteens)
  • Côte d’Azur University (Co-organiser of a University diploma on “local sustainable food projects”)
  • INRA (National Institute for Agricultural Research)
  • Lascaux program (International network of researchers on agriculture and food – based in Nantes, France, to follow sustainable transition in the field of alimentation)
  • Regional Agency of the Ministry of Agriculture
  • Regional Agency of the National Agency for Environment (ADEME)
  • House of fair trade (association and local shop)
  • Boomerang (zero waste shop)
  • Mouans-Sartoux parents’ association

Mouansemble (citizens’ association active in the field of sustainable development)

What was the local journey?

Biocanteens was built on the municipality’s decades-long promotion of sustainable land-use.

  • In 2005, Mouans-Sartoux became an active town in France’s ‘National Health Nutrition Plan’. It modified its school menus to follow the plan's nutritional recommendations and reach a 100% organic food objective in the next years.
  • In 2010, because local organic producers were unable to supply local canteens with enough fresh products, Mouans-Sartoux created a municipal farm. The farm now produces 24 tons of organic fruit and vegetables every year to supply local canteens. It represents 85% of the vegetables eaten in the 3 school canteens existing in Mouans-Sartoux.
  • In 2012, the Biocanteens model was formalised with a local management plan objective to ensure 100% of products in school meals were supplied by organic farms. This transition would be achieved without additional costs, thanks to measuring and controlling food waste to reduce it by 80%.
  • The municipality modified its public procurement specifications, encouraging new local producers.
  • Local canteen staff were trained in sustainable food, to learn to work with organic products and to think differently the process of cooking (cooking on demand, collection of organic composting, introduction of plant proteins and new approach to nutrition)
  • The municipality organised open days and meetings, workshops and public events (Book Festival, Science Festival, Spring of Possibilities) to raise awareness of local families of the benefits of locally produced organic produce
  • In 2012, to meet increased demand, land available for agriculture was extended from 40 to 112 hectares.
  • Alongside the Biocanteens initiative, the Municipality created the ‘Observatory for sustainable canteens’ in 2012 to measure changes in eating habits.

With Biocanteens sparking broader consumer interest in local organic food, in 2016, the municipality created a new project: the MEAD, or ‘Sustainable Food Education House’. The MEAD embodies the territorial food plan, bringing together local actors, including citizens, and helps develop solutions in organic food production, to move towards local food self-sufficiency.

Mouans-Sartoux joined an international URBACT network in 2018, in order to expand and promote the transfer of sustainable canteens good practice to other European municipalities.

What have been the main outputs & results?

  • Meals from schools (all primary schools and one middle school) of the municipality are 100% organic, with 70% sourced from local agriculture.
  • Today, 85% of the organic food served in Mouans-Sartoux’s canteens are sourced from the municipal farm.
  • Food waste in school canteens has been reduced by 80% in four years, from 150 grams discarded per plate to 30 grams.
  • The price of a 100% organic meal is fixed at 2.01 euros, while in France an industrial non-organic school meal costs on average between 1.50 and 2 euros.
  • Around 110 canteen staff, as well as teachers and staff working for the municipality, have been trained in sustainable food.
  • Residents’ food consumption shifted markedly: observations and questionnaires show 94% of the population now care about the local origin of their food – and 85% have changed their food habits.
  • 3 new jobs have been created on the municipal farm.
  • Increased demand for alternative products that respect nature, and the local environment has sparked new businesses and opportunities in organic agriculture and food production, including seven new shops selling organic products, two organic and one conventional market gardener, two shepherds, a producer of organic flowers, as well as a community garden.
  • These new business opportunities have already created around 100 jobs.
  • Within the municipality, new projects linked to the Biocanteens models and co-financed with European funds have created a virtuous circle. For example, the Sustainable Food Education House employs 6 people .

What does it bring the village/community?

  • Biocanteens contributes to the health and well-being of the community by encouraging and promoting the consumption of healthy organic food.
  • It creates new business and job opportunities in the territory in connection with organic farming – both directly in terms of producing food to supply school canteens, but also more broadly as local awareness and appreciation of local organic food increases.
  • It increases social cohesion and community development, by increasing citizen participation in school life, and more broadly in local initiatives promoting organic food).
  • It also increases social cohesion and community development by building cooperation between different stakeholder groups, including the Municipality, farmers, schools and families.

What’s needed

Financial resources

Main types of cost:

Biocanteens involved no additional costs for the municipality: reducing food waste in school canteens has made it possible to cover the purchase of organic produce. The average cost of ingredients for a normal meal served in French canteens is between 1.5 and 2 euros. The local meal served by Mouans Sartoux costs 2.01 euros (data from 2017). The total price of a meal (including staff etc.) is 8.39 euros without animation, and around 9 euros with animation.

Funding received:
SourceAmountFunded
Cost savings from reduced food waste0 €Extra cost of purchasing organic food
Internal municipal budgetN/ASchool canteens

Human resources

• A kitchen manager, an administrative assistant and a food quality manager for the canteens

• 6 to 8 cooks per canteen, depending on the number of children

• Entertainment staff and canteen educators (watching and exchanging with children during meals and after, to adapt the cooking process to children’s behaviours)

• 3 employees to manage a municipal farm, if required

Physical resources

• Local land with agricultural potential. This can be supplemented by a municipal organic farm if necessary, to help produce enough fruits and vegetables for local alimentation

• School kitchens fit for preparing and serving organic meals

What to do…

  • DO engage with schools and school caterers to understand the benefits of organic food and to train them in how to cook with it.
  • DO take the time to develop a sustainable food policy plan, adapted to the territory.
  • DO include citizens as the first lever for change at the local level, through associations and dialogue, but above all by inviting them to participate in the initiative.
  • DO promote an anti-food waste policy to encourage the emergence of funds for purchasing organic food.
  • DO promote territorial planning that maintains land for agriculture, enabling the installation of farmers and promoters of organic food.
  • DO develop continuous exchange with beneficiaries and citizens, to improve the practice and enable it to take root.
  • DO engage with other municipalities.

and not to do

  • DON’T carry out these actions in isolation from neighbouring areas. This can lead to the emergence of an enclave in the territory.
  • DON’T separate the project’s actors, fields of action and citizens. They are by nature interconnected.
  • DON’T adopt the project exactly as it is in Mouans-Sartoux, without taking into account local specificities (production and location capacities, budget, organisation, human resources, etc.).
  • DON’T aim for 100% of school meals to become organic and local immediately in one big step. This could become counterproductive as it is not economically viable, and would lead to waste.

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