Photos (c) Julie Portier

Above and beyond food

In Grenoble, famous football players spend their afternoon meeting children of a local football club to talk about their diet and how vegetarianism is compatible with playing sports professionally.

“Our experience from last year showed that we mostly reached out to a population who is already aware and actively engaging in food issues,” says Christine Oriol, Food Trails project officer at Grenoble-Alpes Metropole. “We need to reach out to those who don’t care.”

Usually, 75% of the attendants of the activities proposed during the Month of Food Transition are women. The Month of Food Transition is a yearly awareness-raising campaign that involves the metropolis, its administrative neighbours, and local organisations.

This year, Grenoble offered more targeted actions, for example, a low-carbon barbecue, which successfully attracted 50% of men. “We hope this can be a start towards a change in food behaviour,” adds Oriol.

How to get people on board

The Month of Food Transition reached about 800,000 people with opportunities to discuss their relation to food and explore what it means to eat sustainably.

We need to reach out to those who don’t care
— Christine Oriol

Many organisations are involved in the campaign activities, from those interested in the accessibility of food because they work with vulnerable groups, to those that work on energy efficiency related to cooking. Each organisation brings expertise and input, making reaching out to different segments of the local population easier.

However, the metropolis doesn’t think they have all the solutions and is eager to learn more from others. Within the Food Trails project, Grenoble will exchange with Groningen. “They are working with citizen engagement, and that’s why we want to go and see what’s happening there,” explains Oriol. “And it would be interesting to get their feedback.”

Collaboration is key

Groningen isn’t the only source of inspiration for Grenoble Metropole. “With the help of Food Trails, we are starting to work on creating a food council,” says Oriol. “Last year, Bordeaux evaluated their food council, so we are in touch regarding this. We read their report and know the pitfalls, especially regarding human resources.”

Aware of their limited means, the metropolis is trying to design a ‘lightweight’ council so that stakeholders find it easy and clear to engage, particularly as, in Grenoble’s case, stakeholders go further than the metropolis’ confines.

(c) Julie Portier
(c) Julie Portier
(c) Julie Portier

Borders don’t matter

Compared to Bordeaux Metropole, Grenoble’s existing agriculture strategy (2015-2020) was built with twelve partners, including administrative units outside the metropolis’s boundaries. “We wanted to expand our range of action because the metropolis is urban, and we thought it necessary to work with the rural areas nearby because that’s where food is produced,” explains Oriol.

We wanted to expand our range of action ... we thought it necessary to work with the rural areas nearby because that’s where food is produced
— Christine Oriol

The Inter-Territorial Food Plan (PAiT) is a strategy developed at the national level in 2014 where territories of production and consumption work together to create a responsible local food system. The idea is that local agriculture is developed in connection with the needs of the local population. Grenoble’s strategy stands out because its partnerships do not take administrative limits into account but are based on a coherent perimeter integrating the whole local food chain.

The PAiT has already shown its impact by helping to preserve agricultural lands and developing grocery shops owned by local producers or focused on local food. It has also affected the structuring of collective catering by using local and organic products in schools and establishments for the elderly.

Collective catering

“Thanks to Food Trails, we can support our municipalities to reach the target set by a French law from 2018 stating that 50% of the products bought for public school canteens must be sustainable – meaning organic or with a specific label,” says Oriol.

The project has financed more resources, making it possible for the metropolis to support local partnerships, to develop targeted actions or a common approach for collective catering in the 49 municipalities.

The metropolis concretely offers consultants’ support to diagnose the situation in the different schools, for example, regarding waste. How much food is being wasted in the kitchen during preparation? And when it’s being served? “We often accuse kids, but it’s in the kitchen or in canteens that there is most waste because too much is being ordered, produced and served,” says Oriol.

We often accuse kids, but it’s in the kitchen or in canteens that there is most waste
— Christine Oriol

The consultants also look at the schools’ purchases to improve food quality. After the diagnosis, the conclusions are presented to all stakeholders. “We found a lot of willingness to work on the subject, but what is often lacking is a formalised and shared common project,” explains Oriol. “So, the next step is putting all stakeholders together to plan and decide what they want and ensure their success.”

What’s needed to do more

Currently, Grenoble-Alpes Metropole is developing a comprehensive Food and Agriculture Strategy. The team is organising consultations with local actors, citizens, and producers to find ways to transform the food system and reduce its environmental and climate impact. “To work impactfully, we would need permanent jobs and proper funding within the metropolitan administration dedicated to food and to formalise a coherent food policy,” adds Oriol.

Oriol regrets that, because of the lack of resources, they are limited in their actions too. For example, she says they would like to work more on health and food poverty as at least 10% of the population in France is concerned.

“There are initiatives, like socially responsible shops, where people with more earnings can buy more expensive products so that people with less income can benefit from lower prices. But it’s not on a large scale,” she explains. The first step would be to map existing initiatives to target actions effectively.

Another area would be to increase the circularity of the food system. The metropolitan administration has started working on collecting and treating food waste from households and restaurants to generate biogas – which is something Warsaw is interested in exploring through the Food Trails project.

However, the idea can be pushed further to complete the food circle. “The farmers produce, people eat locally, and the fertilisers needed for the fields are also produced locally from biomass generated from our food waste,” explains Oriol. “And so, we close the loop.”

Wilma Dragonetti Eurocities Writer
in numbers:
  • 10%

    of French population is concerned by food poverty
  • 800,000

    people reached with the Month of Food Transition
  • 75%

    of participants in the Month of Food Transition are women