On 25 March 2021, the European Commission presented its action plan to boost organic production. We analysed the Action Plan and extracted what it says about the role of organic cities in achieving its aims.
1.2. Promoting organic canteens and increasing the use of green public procurement
Cities, towns and regions all play an increasingly important role in promoting organic production. The development of canteens favouring organic food, as well as offering organic food vouchers to vulnerable people, for instance, could provide significant opportunities for increased organic consumption and production. Existing networks should be encouraged to widen the number of cities and towns involved in national or local strategies promoting organic food in canteens.
- Copenhagen is the first city that has reached 100% organic public canteens, supplied by around 25 000 hectares of organic farmland mainly around the city.
- Vienna has a network of organic urban gardens of around 860 ha that also supplies public canteens, in particular nurseries.
- Rome serves around 1 million organic meals per day in public canteens.
A shift to organics could trigger potential benefits for peri-urban agricultural and aquaculture activities, the development of local supply chains and sharing of best practices, for example between public canteens and restaurants. At the same time, providing organic products in canteens will make these products accessible to a wider range of consumers.
Green public procurement (GPP) offers potential to boost organic farming. In the implementation of such procurement procedures, special attention should be paid to small farms, micro-enterprises and SMEs. In October 2019, the Commission issued new EU GPP criteria for food, catering services and vending machines. There is nevertheless still a lack of knowledge among public administrations – particularly local ones – on the possibilities offered by GPP when organising public procurements.
In the Farm to Fork strategy, the Commission commits to determining the best way of setting minimum mandatory criteria for sustainable food procurement to promote healthy and sustainable diets, including organic products, in schools and public institutions, which should be the basis for any future action of the Commission in this area.
Action 3: To stimulate a greater uptake of organics in public canteens, the Commission will, together with stakeholders and Member States:
- boost the awareness of the criteria for GPP issued in 2019, of the work on Public Procurement of Food for Health, and of the Joint Action BestREMAP19 ;
- integrate organic products into the minimum mandatory criteria for sustainable food public procurement to be developed as part of the legislative framework for sustainable food systems by 2023;
- analyse the current situation as regards the application of EU GPP. The Commission will use the national action plans on organic farming to monitor the application of GPP and call on Member States for an increase in the use of GPP by public authorities. It will also invite Member States to fix ambitious national targets for organics in GPP;
- prepare, in close cooperation with the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the Covenant of Mayors, specific events for public administrations in charge of public catering, to raise awareness of EU GPP by linking these initiatives to the European Climate Pact, starting in 2022.
1.3. Reinforcing organic school schemes
The EU school scheme supports the distribution of fruit, vegetables, milk and milk products to children, combined with educational activities, with the aim of reconnecting children with agriculture and teaching healthy eating habits, thereby encouraging a healthy diet and sustaining the short- and long-term consumption of the products under the scheme.
In line with the Farm to Fork strategy, Member States should prioritise the distribution of organic products under the EU school scheme, through selection or award criteria in procurement procedures and/or through more favourable conditions. The Commission will reflect these principles in the revision of the school schemes. At present, several countries do not prioritise organic products, mainly because they are often more expensive than non-organic, which could be mitigated by Member States taking tax measures such as removing reduced rates on pesticides as agricultural inputs.
Action 4: As part of the review of the EU school scheme framework planned for 2023 under the Farm to Fork strategy, and in accordance with the Europe’s beating cancer plan, the Commission will:
- engage with Member States to identify ways to increase further the distribution of organic products in the school schemes. The Commission will call on Member States to continue increasing this share, and those further behind will need to make extra efforts;
Source: EU Commission