Barcelona becomes first city committed to guaranteeing 100% sustainable and healthy food in public procurement

A groundbreaking directive on public food procurement has been approved to promote local, seasonal and organic food.

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07/12/2022 - 12:27 h - City Council Ajuntament de Barcelona

Just over a week ago, the city presented a plan to transform its food system. The Barcelona Healthy and Sustainable Food Strategy for 2030 was drawn up by consensus amongst the city’s main stakeholders, establishing and quantifying a series of goals to be achieved over the next eight years.

Now, with the approval of the technical directive on public food procurement for municipal canteen, meal, catering and vending services, the first of these goals is on track to be realised in the coming years, namely to ensure that 100% of food procured by municipal services is sustainable, healthy and inspired by the planetary health diet.

New award criteria

Promoted in collaboration with the Contracting Department, the Urban Ecology Area and other municipal bodies, the new public directive is a pioneering tool that will guide Barcelona City Council’s public food procurement comprehensively and consistently across all areas.

In fact, it establishes 12 areas of action that cut across the entire organisation, and it is precisely this aspect that differentiates it from previous measures implemented in recent years in Barcelona and other Spanish cities.

It also stands out because it includes social, environmental and, for the first time ever, health and sustainability criteria, and because it combines this with training, identified accreditation instruments, criteria compliance monitoring, and support, guidance and technical training for workers who have to draw up tender specifications.

As for the change of criteria, from now on the City Council will guarantee local, seasonal, organic and healthy food options, whilst respecting the required European regulatory framework and acting in accordance with the land’s productive capability.

It will also work to increase the amount of vegetable proteins offered and rebalance animal proteins accordingly, moderate added sugars, reduce food wastage and the carbon footprint of municipal services, and supply top-quality, locally sourced, farm-fresh food.

A massive shopping basket

The new award criteria proposed by Barcelona City Council target three aims: to promote people’s health and improve their diet, to strengthen the local economy by supporting local and seasonal products, and finally, to reduce the food system’s impact on the planet.

It should be noted that the city, as part of its regular food services, offers 310,000 meals “in company”, 522,000 meals in soup kitchens and 752,000 home-delivered meals every year. Not to mention the 7,900 meals served every day in its 103 nursery schools. This is a massive amount of food with a high transformative impact on the food system.

A realistic, progressive and replicable measure

Although this is an innovative initiative, one of its key points was to make the directive realistic, so as to avoid current available supply rendering its implementation unfeasible. It is also progressive, meaning the more the region’s healthy and sustainable supply is promoted and strengthened, the larger the supply network will be. Most importantly, the directive has the potential to become a driving force and an example for other governments, companies and organisations to replicate the model.

Click here to see the technical directive for applying sustainability criteria to food services (in Catalan) [2022].

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