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Sustainable public procurement of food

  • Published on March 7, 2022

Public procurement of food provides the opportunity to drive local and regional food economies towards more sustainable paths. Both Green Public Procurement (GPP) and Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) are relevant practices in this context. Local and regional authorities (LRAs) use different approaches to provide opportunities for the introduction of locally or regionally sourced produce in their food procurement. This short study adds to other initiatives aimed at disseminating knowledge on practices that are effective in increasing the use of sustainable food by public institutions. This is done by briefly presenting ten cases related to food procurement for public catering (Part 1). Cases are selected from different countries to take into account some of the structural specificities linked to national laws, maturity of implementation of GPP/SPP, and general management and organisation of public canteens. In Part 3, highlights derived from the cases are used to outline synthetic guidelines for LRAs on the main aspects to be considered for the introduction of sustainable food in public contracts.

In both GPP and SPP, other criteria than ‘price only’ or ‘cost only’ are used for the procurement of food supply and/or of catering services. Directive 2014/24/EU on public procurement makes provisions for this (Article 67), stating that the award of public contracts shall be based on the most economically advantageous tender (MEAT). The MEAT method of assessment allows for considering price, or cost, and other criteria that relate, among other factors, to quality, social, environmental and innovative aspects as well as delivery conditions such as delivery date, delivery process and delivery period. In practice, this method rewards the bids which are compliant with specific criteria. The weighting of the award criteria further allows for achieving the best combination of price and quality. National procurement laws reflect the transposition of Directive 2014/24/EU and may include additional binding rules for public procurement. For instance, some Member States apply a lower national threshold for direct agreements. Therefore, the authors have realized an inventory of local and regional initiatives with case studies, focusing on school catering services and canteens in different cities from different countries: Rome, Italy; Podravje, Slovenia; Lens, France; Kiuruvesi, Finland; Zagreb, Croatia; Munich, Germany; Tukums, Latvia; Copenaghen, Denmark; Malmo, Sweden; Bath & North East Somerset, UK. The collected examples aim at providing practical suggestions for initiating a change towards sustainability, starting from LRAs’ public canteens. Since in several Member States local authorities are responsible for the provision of school food – sometimes bearing the full costs of this provision, other times sharing it with families – most of the examples collected and of the remarks made refer to school catering. Procurement procedures appear to be importantly shaped by some main national and local/regional characteristics, including: the legal framework, the way the schooling system is organized, centralized or decentralized purchasing system. From the analysis and the conclusive remarks highlighted, the authors have developed synthetic guidelines for the introduction of sustainable foods into public contracts related to six core areas: policy commitment, supply capacity and menu planning, food, catering and services, food procurement procedure, market engagement and tendering process. 

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