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89% of food served in the City of Copenhagen’s canteens is organic. The municipality achieved this impressive figure without increasing the budget for the canteens – instead they focused on training the kitchen staff and supporting the development of organic supply chains.

A city focused on sustainability

Copenhagen has long been famous for combining sustainable solutions with growth and a high quality of life. The City of Copenhagen was the European Green Capital in 2014, and it aims to become the world’s first CO2 neutral capital by 2025.

Denmark has the second-highest per-capita consumption of organic food in the world, after Switzerland. The average Dane spend 227 euros per year on organic food, and in Copenhagen, organic produce has successfully moved into the mainstream. Organic food makes up 24% of the total food sales in Copenhagen.

Even better, 89% of the food consumed in the City of Copenhagen’s public canteens, such as day-care centres, nursing homes, and schools, is organic. This transition has reshaped the public food system as well as the meals that the citizens of Copenhagen enjoy.

The decision to use green procurement to promote sustainable diets

The impressive rise of organic in public institutions has come about through a combination of forward-looking green procurement policy and a determination to transform food culture.

The Municipality of Copenhagen has pursued the organic agenda since 2001 and has the explicit goal of reaching 90% organic throughout the procurement of all the 900 kitchens that produce meals across the city.

A national effort from Organic Denmark was crucial to this success. They achieved a national government goal of reaching 60% organic in all public canteens. They also won public financing for conversion and education in public kitchen, and facilitated an intensive collaboration among organic farmers, food companies and wholesalers in Organic Denmark to expand organic supply to public canteens.

Going organic – within the same budget

To achieve the 90% target, it was necessary to train and up-skill kitchen staff, while simultaneously restructuring procurement methods to ensure a sufficient supply of quality organic ingredients. The organic conversion of the 900 kitchens across the city has been undertaken by municipal departments, with the help of various consultants and trainers.

No kitchens have been awarded an increased budget in order to achieve the goal of 90% organic, the task has been to convert within existing budgets.

The main idea behind the strategy in the kitchens is to train kitchen staff in cooking techniques so that they are able to plan their menus sustainably and cook food from scratch, as opposed to using processed food and semi fabricates. This means that they can afford to buy more expensive organic food.

They also teach other techniques to maximise the value of public food spending budgets, at the same time resulting in more nutritious, climate-friendly and appealing meals. For instance, kitchen staff received training on using seasonal vegetables, using less meat, baking, preserving, fermenting and general reduction of food waste.

Professional organic supply chains

In recent years, the municipality has put a lot of effort into ensuring that the organic transition in the kitchens is supported by quality organic procurement and tenders that encourage the market to develop the organic and sustainable sections of their product ranges.

As a direct result, there has been a professionalisation of the organic supply lines into the canteens, schools, hospitals and nursing homes, where it is now possible to get a wide range of organic products in catering sizes, freshly butchered organic meat in a wide variety of cuts, and a diverse range of seasonal fruits and vegetables.

For instance, until 2012 none of the national wholesalers operating in Denmark offered fresh organic meat. In fact, only a small range of frozen cuts of organic meat were available. This changed after the municipality of Copenhagen published a tender which specified a wide assortment of fresh, organic meat. After this tender, these products soon became available through several of the wholesalers.

Although the market for organic and sustainable food in out-of-home catering has developed much slower than the retail market in Denmark, Copenhagen’s procurement officers have been able to create a strong demand and communicate it to the market in a clear manner.

Initiatives to transform food and farming in Europe

This story is featured on IFOAM EU’s EU Organic 2030 website, which showcases initiatives that help bring organic on every table, improve organics further, and make the value chains more transparent and fair.

IFOAM EU is seeking more submissions to showcase best practice, so if you have an initiative which is making Europe more organic.

Submit your initiative to make Europe more organic