Collective school catering

A sustainable initiative for a territorial agri-food policy - Mouans-Sartoux, France

juin 2017

URBACT Programme

La commune de Mouans-Sartoux est engagée depuis 1998 dans une démarche d’introduction de produits bio et locaux dans sa restauration collective. Cette intention initiale a été le support d’un investissement élargi de la commune sur la question alimentaire. Afin de pourvoir aux besoins en produits locaux, elle a créée une ferme maraîchère en régie municipale, qui offre l’opportunité de coupler production à destination des cantines scolaires et ateliers éducatifs. Cet investissement a été couplé à une modification des marchés publics pour permettre aux producteurs locaux de compléter les besoins alimentaires. La commune travaille aujourd’hui à l’élargissement et l’inscription de cette démarche dans une évolution du système alimentaire à l’échelle de l’intercommunalité.


Mouans-Sartoux is a city of 10,000 inhabitants located on the French Riviera. Since 1998, the city has been connecting food, health and environmental issues. To overcome the lack of a local organic food offer, a municipal farm was created and two farmers hired to grow vegetables for school canteens, thus meeting 85% of the needs of the three local schools (1,000 meals per day). Public procurement rules were changed so that local producers could answer calls for bids.

Since then, the city has been serving daily meals in its schools that are 100% local and organic. Developing this approach, Mouans-Sartoux is now working on local agri-food systems and education to extend the initiative.

The solutions offered by the good practice

This initiative offers multiple benefits:

• 100% organic meals, by a progressive increase of organic sourcing (adaptation of the public procurement policy) with no extra costs;

• Dramatic reduction of food waste by a set of simple solutions. The economic savings made it possible to offer 100% organic food, served in the canteens at a constant cost. Public procurement rules were reoriented towards local products, using a set of criteria focusing on food quality, environment preservation and cost;

• Creation of a municipal farm to deliver local organic vegetables to the canteens;

• Employment protection: two municipal farmers collaborate with cooks, a nutritionist, managerial staff and elected representatives. Short supply chains and local consumption have increased employment;

• Shift to a healthy diet: food quality, nutritional standards (PNNS), providing fresh, seasonal and balanced non-industrial products, local and organic, cooked on-site from raw products. An effort is put into vegetable proteins in the diet, a savings that enables the purchase of better quality meat;

• The MEAD (House for Sustainable Food and Education) aims at developing a set of projects related to municipal agri-food policy;

• Behavioural change: an Observatory of Sustainable Food was created to follow up on actions and families’ food and consumption habits and evolution of their practices;

• Sustainable land use: to deal with urban sprawl, the local urban planning strategy protected 112 ha. of agricultural land, thus tripling the area dedicated to farming.

Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

Horizontal integration: by supporting smart land use, organic production and local agri-food systems development, the project has a strong environmental dimension. It also has an economic dimension through the creation of jobs (2 jobs at the municipal farm, 2 jobs at the local grocery store), and a social dimension by supporting a « Jardin de Cocagne » as part of a national network: an organic farm that employs 50 people offering social integration through economic activity.

The other social aspect is the access to sustainable food in the canteens for every pupil, who pays a price adapted to his or her parents’ income. Shifting to 100% organic with no price increase can also be considered as sustainable. Moreover, educating children in nutrition, health, food origin and products, fair trade, etc., is a core action of the project.

Territorial integration: the project is well integrated in the overall strategy of the city since it manages its own public services (water supply, canteens, farming, etc.), giving autonomy in decision making.

The project adopts a transversal approach and shared governance through the collaboration of many internal services such as youth and education (through animation, school catering, health, prevention and sustainable development sectors), environmental services (managing the municipal farm), the city urban planning office (especially for the agricultural land area project aiming to install new farmers), with crucial cooperation among all stakeholders.

Based on a participatory approach

The project triggers empowerment. Many citizen initiatives have emerged, like local grocery stores (Boomerang: unpacked-food shop, MCE: Fair-trade NGO), community gardens, local groups working on sustainable development actions (Collectif Mouansemble), Incredible Edible, etc. People are particularly involved in the city’s activities, and there are many project leaders.

Multi-level governance: through the MEAD and the Observatory for Sustainable School Catering steering committees, the project associates a wide range of actors in the field of agriculture, health, environment and sustainable development who take part in the governance of the whole good practice: consular chambers (Chambre d’Agriculture), NGOs and national networks of the organic sector (Agribio06, Un Plus Bio), public health NGOs (CODES, CRES: regional and local health committees), decentralised state services (DRAAF: Ministry of Agriculture Regional Service), universities and research institutes (INRA Avignon: agronomy, Côte d’Azur university, LASCAUX: research on food access and food laws, ITAB: organic farming research institute, etc.).

Being part of the AGRI-URBAN project, local stakeholders are associated as members and partners of the URBACT Local Group (AGRI-URBAN): citizens, parents’ associations, private sector (cooperatives, NGOs, farmers), multi-scaled administrative and educational institutions, etc. By changing their eating behaviour, parents as well as the local population are significant stakeholders of the project.

What difference has it made?

As a result of this initiative, the circular economy has developed. Projects were born thanks to the change of mentalities (i.e. direct marketing of food goods such as AMAP (Community Supported Agriculture), and small local grocery stores like Boomerang). Jobs linked to local agri-food systems were created (production, retail, sales, organisation). The demand for quality local products is high.

Other results involve:

• Environmental protection: zero pesticides, increase of biodiversity by organic crop production and use of melliferous plants that attract pollinators, short low carbon supply chain;

• Agriculture: the Local Urban Plan Strategy has tripled the agricultural area, allowing the installation of an organic farmer who sells his production locally. In 2016, the municipal farm produced 24 tons of organic vegetables for schools, covering 85% of the requirements;

• Food waste: 80% decrease in canteens, 30g/meal are now wasted instead of 150g (national average);

• The observatory: public health and food diets have evolved. Surveys done in 2013 and 2016 revealed that the proportion of families in Mouans-Sartoux who eat 100% organic food has increased from 6% to 13% (in France, less than 2% eat 100% organic, BVA survey 2014). In 2016, 85% of the sample declared that their food practices, behaviour and way of consumption had changed. 31% of parents buy at the producer’s once a week (vs. 19% at national level), 20% weekly at the farmers’ market, and 99% of parents are satisfied with the city’s food policy.

Why should other European cities use it?

There is no other example of a model, worldwide or in the EU, that includes 100% organic school meals for each pupil at a fair price, together with a municipal farm that provides enough fresh and local vegetables. Moreover, many AGRI-URBAN cities are interested in the project and actions set up in Mouans-Sartoux on canteens and agri-food policy.

We assume that every EU city faces important, and sometimes dead-end problems concerning food and procurement: food waste, lack of food quality, no local short supply chains, increase of pollution and health problems, costs. In order to tackle these issues and their dramatic consequences in the short and long term, they hesitate about what to implement and where to start.

Regarding transferability, Mouans-Sartoux and the University of Côte d’Azur have just created a training programme called Management of Sustainable Food Projects for Territorial Communities, in order to adapt and develop projects according to each city’s individual situation.

The « Jardins de Cocagne » model is a good tool for linking social goals to organic production and would be interesting to test in other EU cities. MS is also a founder city and significant stakeholder of the national (soon to be EU-wide) community network Un Plus Bio (, and a member of the International OrganicFood System Programme network. National and regional media coverage concerning Mouans-Sartoux’s actions and experience is wide and facilitates transferability.

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