Local Food in Fundão Public Schools

by Leah Butz
Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy Name: Local Products + Healthy Food = Happy Children

Location: Fundão, Portugal. Population: 29,213, as of 2011 

Overview: Fundão’s Integrated Action Plan (IAP), colloquially known as “Local Products + Healthy Food = Happy Children,” was the first food policy program ever introduced in the municipality. With a focus on improving the nutritional value and sustainability of public-school food, the IAP included a “Public Plate” strategy to integrate local food economies into the meals served at school. 

This IAP follows the nutritional advice of the Portuguese government’s National Health Service, whose food policy gives education a top priority. Additionally, in 2017, the government passed a law requiring all public school cafeterias (also called “canteens”) provide vegetarian/vegan options. Portugal has a robust agricultural output, producing plenty of green vegetables, edible mushrooms, and grains. Fundão is known for its cherry production, the largest in Portugal, but also has local producers of peaches, olives, and vegetables. 

Progress to date: N/A

Program/Policy Initiated: Work on the IAP began in 2015, and the plan was completed in April, 2018.

Food policy category: Sustainable Practices

Program goals:
1. Foster new urban-rural relationships, while strengthening existing ties.
2. Provide healthier meals in public schools and increase consumer satisfaction.
3. Encourage more production and consumption of local products, keeping the food economy local.

How it works: In 2012, the municipality created the Fundão Producers’ Club, a group of food production business owners who work together to bring more of their products to the public through fairs, partnerships, and shops, among other initiatives. The club also aims to teach potential entrepreneurs in the food and agriculture business, promoting a vibrant selection of local food options. 

In addition, Fundão is one of eleven European municipalities to have joined a network called Agri-Urban, a program for small- and medium-sized cities with connections to food production systems. Each of these cities went on a journey to develop plans to make their food systems healthier and more ecologically sustainable. They had multiple meetings over a period of several years to share information and work together to develop plans tailored to each of their unique circumstances. 

The public primary schools in Fundão serve more than 700 meals per day. Prior to the IAP, these meals were provided by national and international companies. Now, however, the municipality is taking advantage of its agricultural activity and switching to meals that are organic, and made entirely with ingredients purchased from local small businesses. The cost of each individual meal would, naturally, increase. The IAP therefore requires a 20 percent increase in funding to the participating schools. However, this money would stay within Fundão’s local economy, boosting sales and possibly leading to the creation of more jobs in the agriculture sector. 

Five steps are required in order for the IAP to be put into practice. First, the supply and demand must be mapped in order to ensure that local producers have the means to supply enough food for all the schools in Fundão. Then, they move onto a pilot school—the public school in Silvares—for six months, to develop the systems that will roll out in all other schools. The third step is to provide a supply of healthy and organic products at all schools. All school professionals will then receive training to ensure that the meals are healthy and produced hygienically. The final step is to launch a mobile app to facilitate food purchases. 

A monitoring committee will be set up to track the progress of the plan, meeting multiple times per year to discuss the impact of the new meals on schools and food producers. In addition, two work action groups (one for the producers, one for the suppliers) will act as the primary liaisons for the entire project. 

Why it is important: Local food systems are among the most effective ways to improve public health, stimulate local economies, and promote environmentally-sustainable consumption habits. Locally-sourced food is generally fresher, as it has to travel fewer miles on trucks (and almost certainly avoids boat or air travel altogether). Additionally, by making purchases from local farms, consumers are contributing more to their communities than if they were purchasing produce grown hundreds of miles away. 

The decision to incorporate local food sourcing into Fundão public schools is a huge benefit for the local farms and businesses from which the municipality will be purchasing. The IAP acknowledges that the shift makes food budgeting at schools slightly more expensive, but notes that when spending is kept local, it contributes to a more financially robust municipality. 

Evaluation: This plan is a complete overhaul of the public school meals in the municipality of Fundão, and is a daring project to undertake. However, the project has the full support of the mayor of Fundão and of a Local Action Group (LAG), made up of government departments, business associations, community groups, and academic institutions. It is a model of positive collaboration between seemingly disparate groups. 

During the pilot program at the school in Silvares, the plan was met with enthusiasm and a sense of urgency. The public schools in Fundão continue to be environmentally conscious two years after the IAP was proposed, hosting events to promote positive interactions with nature. 

Learn more:
Agri-Urban Integrated Action Plan introductory video 
Key Information poster 

Point of Contact:
Municipality of Fundão email: [email protected]

Similar practices: As a member of Agri-Urban, Fundão’s Integrated Action Plan was one of many in the network of eleven European cities. Baena, Spain, is the lead partner in this network, and their IAP similarly targeted the benefits of locally-sourced food. This plan, however, primarily highlighted the economic benefits of local food economies. The LAG Pays des Condruses, a collective of municipalities in Belgium, also developed a plan with goals similar to those of Fundão; namely, focusing on healthy, local food for children in schools. 

References:
Local Products + Healthy Food = Happy Children on Urbact
Statistics Portugal
Local Products + Healthy Food = Happy Children full plan
Portugal school food policy
Vegetarian options in all public canteens from June
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Producer’s Club main site
Agri-Urban main site
Promoting Local Food Systems for Community and Economic Development by Rick Morse
Public School Facebook group
Local Products + Healthy Food = Happy Children informational poster
Baena IAP
LAG Pays des Condruses IAP

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