Criteria for food

Promoting a regenerative food production system

Circular public procurement can influence the way food is produced by encouraging the adoption of regenerative food production.* Through a circular economy approach, your city government can tackle some of the main drivers of biodiversity loss by supporting a food system that stimulates regenerative food production, designs food with and for nature, and circulates valuable materials and nutrients. Contrary to the perception that regenerative food production leads to lower yields and higher costs, regenerative production has been found to be beneficial for yields and in some cases be more profitable than that of conventional food production systems.** Such an approach places priority on positive long-term outcomes for nature, as well as farmers’ livelihoods.

By reconnecting farmers to municipalities and engaging food designers, retailers, restaurants, and municipal entities that procure food (e.g.schools), your city government can support local farmers, and provide healthy food to your urban dwellers. By designing healthy menus for school canteens and procuring nutritious foods, your local authorities can also influence the food culture of future generations.

Questions to consider:

  • Can you procure food that has been produced regeneratively, including: + Locally produced ingredients where and when appropriate? + Diverse and/or seasonal ingredients? + Low impact and upcycled ingredients?

  • Can you make the most of food? For example: + Can you procure ingredients that are made from by-products of other processes or upcycled ingredients? + Can you utilise the whole value of the ingredients you purchase? + Do you have a strategy/plan in place to valorise food waste?


1) The Municipality of São Paulo connects a network of food system actors through its “Connect the Dots” programme. By procuring food grown on agroecological farms in the São Paulo peri-urban zone and surrounding region, it supports local farmers, provides accessible nutrition to vulnerable people, and transforms urban organic waste streams into organic fertilisers.

2) The City of Copenhagen is dedicated to ensuring its food and catering service is healthy, sustainable, and appetising. The City has a target to supply 90% organic food across its 900 municipal canteens. In 2014, the municipality ensured that bids for fruit and vegetable contracts would include a variety of different sorts, varieties, and types. This initiative was the Procura+ Award winning tender in 2016 for Sustainable Procurement of the Year.

3) The Municipality of Milan has taken a bold strategic approach to support a new food system. The Milan Food Policy supports the procurement of locally sourced food, produced by a consortium of farms on the outskirts of the city. By serving locally sourced food in the Milan school canteens, the city has cut down on transportation and supported local production.

4) For a school canteen in the town of Plavinu, the municipality decided to test a circular approach with their catering service contract for a three period. The procurement criteria were designed to increase nutrition and health, provide organic products, minimise waste and promote environmentally friendly transportation. The contract included an action plan to reduce plastic and food waste.

5) The City of Minneapolis aims to address racial inequities in employment, education, healthy food access and obesity. The Homegrown Minneapolis is a food programme that brings together key partners from local government, businesses, community organisations, and residents to grow, distribute and compost locally grown and sustainable foods.


  • The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s self-assessment tool will support you in understanding specific solution areas to focus on. By taking part, you will be actively driving progress towards a thriving food system based on circular economy principles.

  • The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s “Cities and Circular Economy for Food” report explores the benefits of the transition to a regenerative food system. The Foundation also has a series of stories from around the world of cities igniting a food system transformation.

  • The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s “Big Food Redesign”report identifies the significant opportunity to catalyse a rapid transition towards a nature-positive food system. By exploring how circular design for food can be fully leveraged, and by analysing the economics of circular design opportunities for a select number of food types in the EU and the UK, it lays out what businesses and policymakers can do to accelerate progress on this agenda.

  • Learn about the true costs of the current food system and the catalytic role cities can play in creating a healthy, resilient system based on natural processes on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Learning Hub.

* Regenerative production: refers to growing food in ways that generate positive outcomes for nature, which include but are not limited to: healthy and stable soils, improved local biodiversity, improved air and water quality. Farmers may draw from many different schools of thought such as regenerative agriculture, agroecology, agroforestry, and conservation agriculture to apply the best set of practices to drive regenerative outcomes on their land.

** Valeche-Altinel C., Wachholz C. and Engström M. (2021) A low-carbon and circular industry for Europe. Think 2030 policy paper by Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Institute for European Environmental Policy, p.25.

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