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By Paola Hernandez Olivan, Health Care Without Harm Europe

Most of the food that is eaten in the EU passes from farms downstream to food and beverage manufacturers for subsequent processing or transformation and then on to food and beverage retailers or consumer services before reaching the final consumer. This journey from farm to fork clearly has many points at which a change can be introduced towards food systems that deliver sufficient, safe and affordable food, and stimulate dietary changes beneficial for health, the environment and climate, while leaving no one behind.

The EU’s farming policy, particularly the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), has so far failed to underpin a transition towards sustainable food systems. That’s why the Farm to Fork strategy, which should be launched early in the European Commission’s 2019-2024 legislative cycle, represents a crucial opportunity to ensure policy coherence, and initiate this transition towards sustainable food systems. Moreover, the strategy also offers a historic occasion to recognise and enhance the positive role public food procurement can play in favour of different sustainability objectives, including socio-economic, health, environmental, ethical and quality at the same time.

This discussion paper, written by the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) in collaboration with Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe, is divided into four sections reflecting on the transformative potential of public food procurement to leverage a sustainable food systems transition, which can result in durable changes in eating habits and preferences.

This debate about public food procurement’s potential to contribute to a sustainable food future is not unique, and there are many existing examples of local and national authorities taking steps forward by experimenting with new approaches, thereby implementing a more holistic and strategic approach to food procurement. In the third part of this discussion paper we highlight seven different case studies of transition from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Spain and Slovenia which not only highlight some of the barriers faced but also aspirations for the future, cementing the necessary elements that the Farm to Fork strategy should consider to support national and local sustainable transitions in public food procurement.

Why Focus on Public Food Procurement

We focus on public food procurement because it is one of the policies that allows food production to be connected with settings where food is consumed, such as educational establishments, healthcare facilities, social and welfare services, armed forces and prisons; and to help to drive markets for ethically produced, healthy, sustainable products and services. It still an open question how the adoption of sustainability-oriented public food procurement policies across Europe will accelerate and safeguard our future of food, and how the EU Farm to Fork strategy will contribute to it. Until then, all we can do is hope our premises are put into action.

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