Guest article by Jean-Marc Louvin, Buy Better Food Campaign Coordinator, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability Europe
Wendel Berry once said, “Eating is a political act.” Our food choices tell us who we are, what world we live in, and which future we are promoting. If it is true that we can “vote with our wallet” when buying food, it is also true that we as individuals are not the only ones who can do so, nor perhaps the best place to do so. On the other hand, local and regional governments can do exactly the same with a much greater impact on our health, communities, and environment.
This is what the Buy Better Food Campaign is all about. Raising awareness on how public canteens (schools, hospitals, care facilities, etc.) can be – and oftentimes are already – spaces of sustainable and healthy transitions. And how public food procurement, if carefully considered and democratically discussed, can be a “low-hanging fruit” capable of extraordinary transformations from a social, ecological, and health perspective.
The Buy Better Food Campaign is the first and foremost movement. It is a core team of ten NGOs led by ICLEI and a coalition of more than 200 local governments and civil society organisations, working together to spread and raise awareness about the pivotal role sustainable public food procurement can have in transforming our food systems in Europe and beyond, and advocate at the European level for a legal framework capable of supporting the virtuous municipalities and encouraging others to provide healthy, sustainable and fair food.
Since March 2022, those behind the Buy Better Food Campaign have been organising public events, online polls, petitions, and meetings at the local government and European levels with civil society and public authorities to increase attention on public canteens, particularly schools, and their game changing role in our food system. Since October 2022, the Campaign has also been promoting the Sustainable Food Procurement Manifesto, which sets forth seven actionable propositions for establishing minimum standards for public canteens to serve sustainable and healthy food in Europe. The manifesto has been used to help support the work of the European Commission in drafting the long-awaited and, hopefully, ambitious Sustainable Food System Framework law due out this autumn.
Food consumed in public canteens is our food, because we either eat it ourselves, our children eat it, or because it has been purchased with our money. Thus, as members of society, we are entitled to ask that our food be healthy, nutritious, fairly remunerated while supporting small farmers, and sustainably produced. Public food should be good for our own health, that of our children and our planet.
Disclaimer: the opinions – including possible policy recommendations – expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EPHA. The mere appearance of the articles on the EPHA website does not mean an endorsement by EPHA.