“There is a territorial inequality of citizens and canteens in relation to organic ones”

The kitchens at Nancy University Hospital, Tuesday, March 15, smell good of cream. Julien Fabbro, Catering Manager, leads us from one pan to another: “We are in a manufacturing sector capable of producing over 2,000 servings of the same dish”. Around 6,000 food trays are prepared daily for patients and hospital staff. “French spinach, French eggs, French milk béchamel…”he says proudly. But there is no organic product in the recipe for these eggs Benedict.

“For 2021, our volume of quality products is about 15%, including 3.5% of organic products. Today we are clearly not on target, ” regrets Julien Fabbro. The goal is the goals of the Egalim law: 50% sustainable and quality products in collective nutrition, including 20% ​​organic products by 2022. But this goal, formulated in 2017 by Emmanuel Macron, is far from being achieved.

“What we know with a reasonable degree of certainty is that we currently have almost 6% in canteens,” explains Laure Verdot, director of Agence bio, a government agency dedicated to the development and promotion of organic farming. A figure that includes the school, medical, business, and prison sectors. For its part, the Ministry of Agriculture believes that the share of sustainable products (including organic) “ranges from 10 to 15% depending on the catering segment”.

These eggs Benedict, which served as a cold starter at CHRU de Nancy, are French products, but not organic.  (VALENTINE JUBIN / RADIO FRANCE)

The first obstacle put forward by collective restaurants: the price of organic certified raw materials. Julien Fabbro gives an example of organic yoghurt from Lorraine. “At 2.5 times the price of regular yogurt, this is an additional cost that remains significant.” The kitchen manager also believes that the local organic sector is not “structured” enough to fit the hospital’s restrictions: “Lunch corresponds to 45 variations of different menus. Raw materials are characterized in terms of nutritional value. Today, we cannot replace green beans with turnips because the supplier did not have the conditions for delivery.”

For Julien Fabbro, organics only have environmental benefits if they are local. The argument is put forward by many managers of collective restaurants, notes Agence Bio. But the reasoning is wrong, according to its president, Laure Verdot, Adémé’s study in support.

“Because transporting food represents only a third of its environmental impact compared to two-thirds for its mode of production, it’s better to have organic products, even if those food products originate a little further.”

Laure Verdot, director of the Organic Agency

on Franceinfo

However, she admitsterritorial inequality of citizens and canteens in relation to organic ones. With regions”where there are many more settlements, such as Occitanie, Nouvelle-Aquitaine” andt others such as the Grand Est region “in the process of catching up”.

At Agria's signature restaurant in Rouen (Seine-Maritime), the menu contains about 3% organic products.  (VALENTINE JUBIN / RADIO FRANCE)

In the signature restaurant Agria on the left bank of Rouen (Seine-Maritime) and its 900 daily dishes, an offer of organic and quality products “is about 5%, including 3% organic”, explains Celine Gadon, manager. She also brings up the issue of prices and insists on taking care of local preferences. But opening the refrigerator door, Robert Thierry, second in the kitchen, shows us eggplants and tomatoes from Morocco.“Every day we have two vegetable dishes, I’m not going to serve pumpkin puree every day. This is a restaurant”, he justifies.

So how do good students do it? How to achieve 20% organic food while respecting collective food restrictions? “Meeting suppliers, exchanging a lot with them”, answers Dominique Maupin, director of the central cuisine of the schools of Rouen and Bois-Guillaume (7,500 daily meals), which contains 43% organic products. “As they went along, they improved the way they delivered the products and calibers we wanted.”

Dominique Maupin, director of the central cuisine of the schools of Rouen and Bois-Guillaume (Seine-Maritime), Thursday, March 17, 2022 (VALENTINE JUBIN)

Most of these suppliers are located within a radius of 50 kilometers from Rouen. “Our priority is local organics, then national organics, and then products with high ecological value, farms, labeled”, Dominique Maupin’s list. “It’s a philosophy somewhere, feed the planet well, feed people and children well, he adds. We may have local reasoners 25 km away, but who may be stuffed with pesticides, for example, or fertilizers.

The transition to organic has been gradual, from 7% in 2011 to over 40% ten years later. Sirest, an inter-municipal union for school meals in Rouen-Bois-Guillaume, has set itself the goal of achieving 50% organic food by 2023. So far, food prices have not risen thanks to the waste plan. But Dominique Maupin believes that sooner or later it will be necessary to ask municipal electors for additional financial efforts.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the share of organic food in school canteens has increased from 3.4% in 2017 to 10% in 2021.

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