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Rural areas supporting sustainable urban food systems through innovative food public procurement

In an era where sustainability is no longer a choice but a necessity, cities and rural areas across Europe are stepping in maximising the potential of working together to ensure sustainable food systems. Taking on the challenge to push for more organic, local, and sustainable food systems, URBACT cities are leading by example fostering innovation in public procurement working with rural areas.

The Strategic Public Procurement Online Course outlines their practical insights and experiences, and some municipalities have taken the opportunity to redefine food production, distribution, and consumption to align with sustainability goals, while establishing links with local food providers from rural areas. 

Food procurement is integral to public sectors such as schools, childcare centres, hospitals, retirement homes, and public administrations. The shift toward conscious purchasing could cut GHG emissions and food waste, save over 80 million GBP per year, and support fair labour practices. 

One example of this is the city of Torres Vedras in Portugal. As part of its Sustainable School Food Programme, the city is purchasing raw food materials directly from local rural producers. This includes a variety of products, with a focus on quality and freshness, following specific criteria and conditions. This effort supports rural development and aligns with the 2014 Directives on tendering processes. 

The EU Framework for sustainable food procurement including the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy, is laying the groundwork for innovative approaches to food systems. URBACT's continuous exploration of food procurement is opening avenues for greener products and local entrepreneurship. These strategies hold immense potential for rural areas, offering opportunities to boost local economies, create jobs, enhance innovation, and increase organic production. As a central part of rural development, these initiatives are crafting a sustainable path for rural communities, defining a promising future for local agriculture and the environment. 

Last but not, least, URBACT will carry on the debate and reflections on the subject of food procurement in the course of this year. So, stay tuned and be sure to check the URBACT Knowledge Hub