Leading by example




A combination of forward-looking green procurement policy and a determination to transform food culture are the recipe for success when it comes to increasing organic in public institutions. As of 2017, the share of organic ingredients in meals in public canteens in Copenhagen has reached 89%, and this transition has reshaped the public food system as well as the meals that are served to the citizens of Copenhagen.


Copenhagen, Denmark


Behind this success is a national effort from Organic Denmark, which achieved a national government goal of 60% organic in all public canteens, as well as winning public financing for conversion and education in public kitchens, and an intensive collaboration among organic farmers, food companies and wholesalers in Organic Denmark to expand organic supply to public canteens.

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.

The 90% organic strategy has been a dual effort of both training and up-skilling kitchen staff and simultaneously restructuring the methods of procurement, to ensure supply of quality organic ingredients. The organic conversion of all approximately 900 kitchens across the city has been undertaken both by departments within the municipality and with the help of various consultants and trainers. 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, and thus can afford to buy more expensive organic food. Other techniques that are taught, are the increased use of seasonal vegetables, reduced use of meat, baking, preserving, fermenting and a general reduction of food waste, all are aspects that serve to maximise the value of public food spending budgets, at the same time resulting in more nutritious, climate friendly and appealing meals. 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.

In recent years, the municipality has put much effort into ensuring that the organic transition in the kitchens will be supported by quality, organic procurement and tenders that encourage the market to develop the organic and sustainable parts of their product ranges. As a direct result, recent years have seen 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 wide diversity in the offering of seasonal fruits and vegetables. For instance, none of the wholesalers operating on national level in Denmark, were offering fresh organic meat, only a small assortment of frozen cuts was available, until the municipality of Copenhagen published a tender in 2012 specifying a wide assortment of fresh, organic meat, that then shortly became available through several of the wholesalers. The market for organic and sustainable food in out of home catering in Denmark has developed much slower than the retail market, but the procurement officers of Copenhagen have been able to create a clear and concise demand and communicate it to the contenders in the marketplace, in an audible manner.

The Municipality of Copenhagen
Photo credit: Brian Berg

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