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"Local and Organic Food for Educational Institutions

04 Oct 2023
EIT Food North & East

On September 20th, Tartu Biotechnology Park and EIT Food, the Association of Municipalities of Tartu County and Tartu County Development Association organized a practical workshop "Local and organic food in educational institutions”.

The Association of Municipalities of Tartu County is preparing a county-wide agreement in order to ensure that the canteens of educational institutions use local and organic ingredients to a greater extent. Practical workshop targeted to the heads of educational institutions, representatives of local municipalities, procurement specialists and representatives of caterers was held to discuss the draft of this agreement to be comprising educational institutions both in Tartu City and County.

The goal of the agreement is to ensure that children and students eat healthy food provided by local and organic producers on daily bases. According to the data of the health and well-being profile of Tartu County, among the children entering the first grade in Tartu County in 2019/2020 school year, 30% of boys (25.8% in the city of Tartu) and 23.4% of girls (18.6% in the city of Tartu) were overweight or obese. Body weight is closely related to exercise and diet, and all meals are important. However, it is also important to eat food that provides not only sufficient energy but is also healthy and supports children's ability to learn.

The idea behind this agreement is getting small farmers closer to the schools in the region, promoting local and organic food producers and ensuring that healthy and sustainably produced ingredients will form at least 50% of the raw materials used in the preparation of meals for children in school canteens and also kindergartens. This ratio should be increased on yearly bases and the aim of the workshop was to discuss the content of the agreement and agree on the main directions to be outlined in this county-wide agreement.

Among the other speakers, entrepreneur and regional developer Margus Timmo from Võru County presented the results of the similar agreement signed in their county 2 years ago. According to the goals set out in this agreement per year, they’ve achieved that today at least 80% of all raw materials and ingredients used in the school canteens of Võrumaa are organic and produced by local farmers. Naturally, it has required a lot of effort from them starting from raising awareness among the directors of the educational institutions, school cooks and other stakeholders, but they’ve made a substantial progress in only 2 years in promoting organic and environmentally friendly food production in the region, organizing healthy meals at schools and reducing food waste. In order to achieve that, it is crucial that all parties involved contribute to implementation of this agreement.

During the practical part of the workshop, the main goals and directions in the draft agreement were specified. This work took place in groups and the group leaders introduced the results of their group work to the other participants. As the next step, the goals of this agreement will be specified according to the results of these discussions and after that, the Board of the Association of Municipalities of Tartu County will further discuss the content of the agreement at their meeting in November. Also, the same topic will be discussed further at the 7th South-Estonian Food Conference on October 10th, which brings together policy makers and other important stakeholders in the region. Our mutual goal is to conclude and sign this county-wide agreement next year.

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