Collective school catering

A sustainable initiative for a territorial agri-food policy

Labelisation date : 02/06/2017

  • Mouans-Sartoux , France

  • Size of city : 10 331 inhabitants

  • Contact

    Gilles Perole

    Elected representative of Mouans-Sartoux

  • Adapted by cities from
  • Adapted by cities from


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 at national, European and international levels.

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, a circular economy approach was 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.

Transferring the practice

Mouans-Sartoux has also improved its own practice on the following objectives identified in the city’s improvement plan at the beginning of BioCanteens Transfer Network, further involving citizens and local stakeholders in the city’s food project "Citizen feeding the town" (Citoyen Nourrit la Ville) in 2020. In this project, citizens are invited to carry out a participatory mapping of unused public and private lands with the view to turn them into family plots self-managed by small groups of participants, who commit to redistribute a share of their yields to the city’s social grocery. More importantly, a group of citizens was gathered to ensure smooth project steering, and to progressively raise their awareness on a wide diversity of food-related policy topics (ex. Food sovereignty, preservation of agricultural lands, food poverty etc.) beyond the issue of market gardening. This group will become the first basis and test-bed of Mouans-Sartoux’s future local food policy council. Taking stock of the relative failure of Mouans-Sartoux ‘s ULG (progressive disengagement of participants because of an overt-intellectual approach), the MEAD team opted to support people’s mobilisation into the city’s food governance through a progressive, flexible and concrete manner. A study to better understand the eating and purchase habits of the social grocery’s beneficiaries was carried out enabling to better adapt the service delivered by the city’s centre for social action (upcoming organisation of workshops of sustainable food, better (more attractive) presentation of vegetables on food stalls, partnerships with local organic suppliers to improve the quality of food distributed...) Increasing action-research activities and partnerships with academia, research centres and relevant practitioners.


(Pending approval in June 2021): Application to a call for project at national level (Programme National pour l’Alimentation) to carry out an action-research project on how to ensure the coordination of different local authorities’ food project at different governance levels (city, group of cities/metropolitan areas, département). The project’s hypothesis to be verified through 4 case-studies (City of Marseille/Métropole Aix-Marseille- Provence/Bouches du Rhône, Mouans-Sartoux/Alpes Maritimes, Plouguerneau, Epinal) is to show that a food project needs to be developed at each level of local governance, that there is not one better level to coordinate them than the others, but that coordination is needed to build a common narrative and objectives, despite possible different actions.


(Approved in June 2021) : A research project will be launched in the second half of 2021 for 2 years in collaboration with the University Hospital of Nice to measure the impact of the sustainable canteens project onto children health (epigenetics study).


(Also relevant for the point below) Greater dissemination of the city’s food project and know-how at regional, national and international levels


Over 2.5 years, Mouans-Sartoux has led the BIOCANTEENS network, transferring its practice to 6 other cities: LAG Pays des Condruses (Belgium), Vaslui (Romania), Trikala (Greece), Rosignano Marittimo (Italy), Torres Vedras (Portugal) and Troyan (Bulgaria). You can, in particular, check Troyan’s Good practice here. The approach was based on 8 modules which adaptable to each city’s reality: a municipal farm platform, kitchen micro good practices, organic demand and offer, food governance, food sovereignty vision, open dialogues and outreach, working with public procurement, and food education micro good practices The modules are all available as handbook on the URBACT website. Mouans-Sartoux also shared its practice more widely:

  • At national level:
    • via the Cantines durables – Territoires Engagés, French transfer of the practice of Mouans-Sartoux, making it a French BIOCANTEENS network;
    • via 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, together with the University of Côte d’Azur; and,
    • as a significant stakeholder of the national community network Un Plus Bio.
  • at European/international level: