Austria | Food

Government pushes regional food in canteens and cafeterias

Federal Minister Köstinger presents the guide to sustainable food procurement.
Michael Gruber / BMLRT
Federal Minister Köstinger presents the guide to sustainable food procurement.

The Austrian Ministry of Agriculture is launching a community initiative for more seasonal products from the region in community catering. Their motto: "Let's go: more quality on our plates". The programme's focus is on daycare centers, schools, clinics, homes and canteens run by the public sector. According to the ministry, a lot of potential remains unused as yet.

In order to support public institutions, the federal government has developed a 24-page guideline for sustainable, regional food procurement for municipalities and public canteens. Fact: Three out of four Austrians would like to see an increase in the range of regional foods on offer. "We want to ensure that food for communal catering comes from the region as far as possible," explains Austrian Agriculture Minister Elisabeth Köstinger.

Action plan for sustainable procurement

Whoever buys regionally, according to Köstinger, strengthens family farms, protects the climate through shorter transport routes and ensures that the added value is maintained. The federal government is setting a good example and has already launched the initiative "Austria eats regionally" at the end of last year. With the "Sustainable Procurement" action plan they are aimomg to achieve practically 100 per cent regional and seasonal public procurement of foodstuffs.

"Now we are launching a joint initiative to ensure that our municipalities and provincial institutions also follow or continue along this path," explained the Minister of Agriculture.
„Tehre is enormous potential in the public sector.“
Elisabeth Köstinger
The municipalities have an important role to play in community catering: they are responsible for compulsory schools and most childcare facilities, where hundreds of thousands of meals are eaten every day, according to the ministry. 5,500 childcare facilities in Austria are managed by municipalities. And 72 percent of all kindergartens are under municipal administration. In addition, the municipalities are responsible for the maintenance and thus also the community catering of 4,200 primary and secondary schools as well as special schools and polytechnic schools.

Win win for all

Today, sustainability thrives in almost all areas of everyday life, but also the population are expecting it. That is why sustainable procurement is also a topical issue for the municipalities – not only because of the sustainability concept, but also because of the financial savings, explains Alfred Riedl, President of the Austrian Association of Municipalities. "After all, regional purchasing promotes domestic jobs and boosts our economy. The initiative 'Austria eats regionally' thus makes an important contribution to environmental and climate protection and at the same time signals publicly municipalities' eagerness to act as role models for climate, environmental and nature protection ", says Riedl.

Together with the federal provinces, Bundesbeschaffung GmbH was commissioned to coordinate the "Forum Österreich isst regional" project and to support public canteens in procuring food more regionally and seasonally.

Guideline for management

The new guide "Let's go: more quality on our plates" for municipalities and public canteens (state and federal) is to provide the impetus for public procurement of foodstuff as regional and seasonal as possible. The guide uses best-practice examples to show how easy it a regional focus can be implemented. According to the Ministry, the freshly published guide is now being sent to all municipalities and private and public canteens in the Alpine Republic.
National Sustainable Procurement Action Plan

The National Action Plan for Sustainable Public Procurement (naBe) is a central tool for achieving climate-neutral administration. The criteria of the plan are binding to be heeded in public procurement processes. A key element being the procurement of regional and seasonal food and services in communal catering. Here, quality and healthy food, the promotion of animal welfare, soil protection and regional and thus environmentally and climate-friendly food production are supposed to go hand in hand.

Essential criteria for the procurement of food and catering services in Austria are

  • Organic share: gradually increase the minimum share of organic food from 25 % in 2023 to 55 % in 2030.
  • Animal welfare: high animal welfare standards for the procurement of meat
  • Fish: from regional waters or sustainable aquacultures
  • Climate plate: at least one daily vegetarian or vegan main dish
  • Origin: information on the origin of meat, eggs and milk close to the point of consumption
  • Reusable systems: for packaging and transport systems
  • Waste: Measures to avoid food waste

75 percent from the region

"The priority use of local foodstuffs has become a social and economic obligation for our businesses and it is no longer possible to imagine our concepts without it," says Manfred Ronge, President of the umbrella organisation of Austrian communal caterers. The kitchens are by nature strongly anchored in the region and proudly serve about 75 percent of the food across all product groups of the fresh assortment from regional, Austrian production. "As an interest group, we are working hard to continuously improve the framework for the use of regional products in Austrian large-scale kitchens and to make it easier for our businesses to implement them along the supply chain," Ronge added welcoming the joint initiative with the ministry.