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France urbaine (which brings together the biggest french cities), together with Agores (experts in local catering), the Lascaux Center for Transitions (jurists), Eating City and Manger Demain (Walloon region), with the support of the cities of Brussels and Mouans-Sartoux, have been launching a common manifesto in Liège on February 9th. It is now open for signature by local authorities and organizations. They call for a European regulation to renew public procurement supporting local, healthy and sustainable food systems.

Among the first signatories : Toulouse Metropolis and the Spanish association Mensa Cívica. We spoke to Jean-Jacques Bolzan, Metropolitan Councillor in charge of Agriculture and Food at Toulouse Métropole, and Paola Hernández Olivan, Project manager.

The Toulouse metropolis: « providing local, healthy and sustainable food for all ».

France urbaine: Could you tell us about the agricultural context in your region?

Jean-Jacques Bolzan: Agriculture and food are at the crossroads of crucial issues for the metropolitan area. We face urgent climatic, environmental and social issues, and the economic fragility of the agricultural sector, we need to build new, more resilient systems that create value and jobs locally. Our region’s food resilience requires a collective response, in conjunction with the production areas around us.

This is why Toulouse Metropolis has launched the metropolitan agri-food project (PAAM). As a driving force behind a territory-wide partnership approach, our role is to support the agricultural and food transition in order to meet the expectations of citizens and the challenges facing the region, and provide access to local, healthy and sustainable food.

To achieve ambitious objectives for the agricultural and food transition, we need to mobilize the various players in the region: farmers, processors, distributors, consumers, advisors, elected representatives… so that everyone can act according to their own scope for action.

France urbaine: Could you remind us of the tools you are mobilizing today to support agriculture and food policies in your area?

Jean-Jacques Bolzan: Our action plan is based on 4 major priorities :

– Priority 1: preserve and strengthen the conditions for agricultural production (land, agricultural jobs, water). We aim to maintain and even increase the 10,600 hectares we have identified, particularly in the context of work on a « low-carbon » urban planning programm. We are also supporting the emergence of a network of urban farms,

– Priority 2: support the catering industry in reducing waste and increasing the use of organic and local produce, for example by coordinating a network of catering professionals,

– Priority 3: Strengthen local supply chains, support and promote players involved in the relocalization of food production. Toulouse Metropolis is a winner of the Territorial demonstrators of agri-food transition Programm, and will experiment the construction of a territorialized supply chain for vegetables and special seeds,

– Priority 4: raise awareness and facilitate access for all to local, healthy and sustainable food. We run “positive food household” challenges, and are developing « fertile neighborhoods » to make food a lever for local resilience in Toulouse’s neighborhoods.

France urbaine: Why do you think that the territorial scale can be a relevant level?

Jean-Jacques Bolzan: The territorial scale enables us to be close at hand and relevant when it comes to implementing public policies on food. We know the players, we can bring them together and carry out coordinated partnership actions.

Mensa Cívica: « We need to change European regulations, and this will help change the rules in Spain too ».

France urbaine: Could you tell us about your association?

Paola Hernández Olivan: Mensa Cívica is a Spanish non-profit association founded in 2016. It brings together different players in the food supply chain (producers, distributors, catering companies and self-managed kitchens, social and professional organizations) to promote a new paradigm that integrates sustainability, health, social and cultural issues into collective catering.

Our main activities focus on research, awareness-raising and training, project management and advocacy at national and European level, such as public procurement. In Spain, we are piloting the European School Food 4 Change program. [NB: the School Food 4 Change program, which brings together 12 countries, 16 cities and regions, 3,000 schools and aims for a systemic approach to food, is steered at European level by the Eating City network, France urbaine’s partner in this advocacy initiative].

We are taking action to improve school, university and hospital catering, with better quality products.

France urbaine: What are Spain’s food standards? The San Sebastián Declaration, signed as part of the Spanish presidency of the European Union, made school canteens a priority. In particular, the notion of a global approach to food and minimum standards is emerging.

Paola Hernández Olivan: Legislation is still old, and national guidelines are limited : canteen management in Spain is largely a matter for the regions. A consultation was due to update the current guidelines, but the process was not completed. We were the only Spanish association to contribute to the European work on green purchasing. The focus on canteens in the San Sebastian declaration is linked to an approach centered on food insecurity, and there is a strong preoccupation with child poverty. There are, however, a number of territorial networks and NGOs working on this issue with a more global approach, such as the National Network of Cities for Agroecology.

France urbaine: Why did you sign our plea?

Paola Hernández Olivan: We’re part of the coordinating team for the Buy Better Food campaign. I attended your webinar a few weeks ago and we decided to support your manifesto, which we fully agree with. We have a lot in common, not least our support for small-scale producers. To do this, we need to change European regulations, and this will help to change the rules in Spain too. We’re working on an alliance between territories and producers, a new way of cooperating. In Spain, canteens are usually managed on a delegated basis, with supplies going through wholesalers, which can exacerbate problems of product traceability. Contracts held by companies lack transparency, with central purchasing agencies charging low prices. There are few price controls. We’re doing our bit to change things.

Toulouse Métropole in a few figures

In 2023, 36 partners, including water and environment public players, consular organizations, associations, local public player at every scale (municipalities, region…)

10,600 ha of agricultural land, i.e. 1/4 of the territory (72% field crops, 13% meadows and 3% market gardening)

271 farms, 69 of which are organic

Over 1/3 of farm managers will have reached retirement age within 5 years.

More than 800,000 inhabitants and 100,000 meals consumed daily in collective catering (including 60,000 managed by the municipal catering services of the 37 municipalities)

5,600 people employed in the agricultural and food sector, more than half of all jobs in the Haute-Garonne area.