Sustainable Food School Programme
City/Region : Municipality of Torres Vedras , Portugal

Provision of healthy school meals in a social, ecological and sustainable way taking into account products freshness, territorial development and job creation through 4 pillars: Production – vegetable school gardens according to organic farming techniques and study visits to organic farms; Acquisition - territorial development by purchasing high quality and fresh raw food materials preferably to local small and medium producers/suppliers; Cooking – direct management by the two municipal kitchens and a network strategy which delegates on the local county authorities to contract local institutions to manage the school meals; Consumption – promotion of healthy eating habits and physical activity.

EU Green Deal Policy Areas Addressed
BiodiversityClean energyFrom Farm to Fork
Sustainable industry
Pathways followed
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Create and close local value chains
  • Implement sustainable procurement principles
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy


1. A Political strategic vision since 2007, about managing the territorial social-economical, and the creation of this specific programme, consolidated in 2014:

  • Lots division, with specific criteria to enhance local small and medium suppliers;
  • A network with the counties’ local authorities which themselves contracts private social institutions for school meals provision, according to the municipal kitchens guidelines - allows the City Hall the possibility of better manages the public procurement for the municipal central kitchens, by lower public tender values.

2. A rural territory, highly marked by agriculture production, promoting the conditions to buy locally.



  • Improve local organic farming for canteens: increase vegetables + conversion livestock products;
  • Apply the direct management to all the school meals, since in 2020-2021 the Municipality will be responsible for all the school levels (not only kindergartens + primary schools);
  • Reduce and reuse food waste.
In Action

This Programme aims to achieve a Sustainable Kitchen and Food Waste Management, a Healthy Food Education and Sustainable Behaviour Change, a Sustainable Urban Planning and Agricultural Land Use, a Food-Related Local Economy and Job Creation, and a Sustainable Integrated Governance, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals of the Agenda 2030, reaching 9 of the 17 ones. In 2015 the Municipality has signed Milan Urban Food Policy Pact and in 2018 joined the CityFood Network and became a partner of the URBACT BioCanteens Transfer Network.

“By educating the youngest, we are contributing to a better future generation for sustainable and healthy food choices and, consequently, more environmentally connected.” – Laura Rodrigues, Education Councilor and Vice-Mayor.

Highlighting some innovations:

1. For organic lots - once we purchase directly to farmers - several meetings were organized in order to plan together with the field production, guarantying the supply needs for the municipal kitchens;

2. The deliverable bulk product boxes' are always collected by its suppliers on the day after, promoting the reusing of the materials and avoiding waste - contributing to a lower ecological footprint;

3. By delegating competences in the local authorities, public procurement issues are facilitated, not only cause the volume of the purchase of the Municipality is lower, but also because the non-profit private organizations are not submitted to public procurement rules and have no restrictions to buy locally;

4. The “Lunch with me on my Birthday” – an initiative set up by the Municipality which invites families to lunch with their kids on their birthday at the school canteens, with a distribution of an inquiry of the meal;

5. Cultural and seasonal menus – since the territory (with about 407 km2) has very different cultural food habits, the menus are designed according to which local reality. For example, in the coastline villages’ fish is more appreciated, but in the interior rural ones, plant-based protein (as beans, for example) are better accepted by pupils. This reality is only possible once each county there’s a local non-profit organization managing the meals, so they’re not all from the city central kitchens. In spite of it, all these organizations are controlled by the Municipality and work according to the municipal guidelines;

6. October “The Food Month”, it’s an annual event where Food is the major theme in schools, focusing on several activities around it. Some events for the general population are also promoted.


1. Social-Economic

  • Job creation through the employability of the inhabitants of the counties of the Municipality, representing more 60 effective people in the private social institutions;
  • About 20 people integrated on the municipal team of the central kitchens;
  • About 220 school staff assistants, which daily support the lunch meals’ time;
  • Development of the local economy by promoting the acquisition from small and medium farmers and suppliers, enhancing the local ones.


2. Environmental

  • Reduction of the ecological footprint through bulk products delivery;
  • Fresh and quality food products, including 2 organic lots (vegetables and fruits) (also a nutritional result);
  • Involvement of about 1200 students on the school gardens, with the perspective of in large the number of schools on the dedicated programme;
  • No food waste in the cooking process, according to the datasheets specifications multiplied by the daily number of students;
  • Awareness actions and quantification of food leftovers after lunchtime, to evaluate in the near future how to reduce it even more.


3. Nutritional

  • 3 evaluation periods/year of meals’ reports from each school board directors;
  • Participation of about 450 families on the “Lunch with me on my birthday”;
  • Meals datasheets creation according to the metabolic needs for the daily lunches;
  • 4000 meals/day in the 2019-2020 school year: 1300 from the municipal central kitchens + 2700 by the private social institutions.

1. Social-Economic

  • For stakeholders we can risk saying that almost the entire population of Torres Vedras is involved: students and their families, school staff and teachers, local farmers/suppliers, and non-profit organizations and their beneficiaries;
  • Job creation and development of the local economy, promoting the employability of the inhabitants of the counties of the Municipality;
  • A pilot project for a partnership with a private social institution for the cultivation of organic vegetables and fruits for some rural school canteens.



Contribute to a lower ecological footprint:

  • Organic fruits and vegetables in the meals, with the goal to provide it to all the schools of the county;
  • Food waste management through the technical datasheets of the menus map, representing no food waste at the kitchen level and also a very significant reduction of costs in the production of meals. Awareness and control of the food waste after meal through the dishes leftovers quantification;
  • Stimulation of the Agri-Food Short Chains and the Circular Economy, by purchasing from small and medium producers/suppliers requiring (where feasible) the delivery of daily bulk products;
  • Freshness guarantee according to the less food time transport (from production/storage to the kitchens), representing less CO2 emissions.



  • Seasonal and cultural menus, including high-quality products, as organic;
  • Nutritional calculation and mapping of allergens of the menus, allowed to establish weight balance of the macronutrients taking into account the age groups, and provision of safer meals;
  • Notions of cultivation according to organic farming principles through the school pedagogical gardens, which in turn are complemented by extracurricular programmes aimed at instilling healthy eating habits and practice of sport that allow the measurement of the results’ evolution.
Challenges and lessons learned
  • The system implemented depends on the strategic vision and political commitment, resulting in a budget increase for the school meals;
  • The food production of Torres Vedras’ territory allows the promotion of local suppliers and food short chains;
  • For organic vegetables and fruits, an adaptation of menus was needed, according to their seasonality and by introducing new vegetables that weren’t used before. The quantity and variety of organic products are not enough in the region, with a lack of livestock products;
  • Public procurement imposes several restrictions which must be adapted at the local level according to the needs.


ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
European Secretariat

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79098 Freiburg

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