Name of organisation
Allende Salazar de Gernika School Canteen (Comedor Escolar Allende Salazar de Gernika)
Allende de Salazar de Guernika
Gernika, Biscay Basque Country/ Local
Type of organisation
Self-managed school canteen supported by the Basque government
Short food supply chains; healthy diet; sustainable public food procurement
Public Food Procurement
Who is the Allende Salazar de Gernika School Canteen?
The Allende Salazar de Gernika School Canteen is a self-managed public service that prioritises and strengthens short food supply chains. The objective of the school canteen is to look after the health of students and ensure the sustainability of the region by prioritising local suppliers to meet the needs of the canteen and feed pupils a healthy, seasonal, locally sourced and nutritious diet. This project, along with others, is part of a pilot project promoted by the Basque Government.
Until recently, five large catering companies dominated the school canteen market in the Basque Country. This was the result of a decree put in place by the Basque Government, which facilitates large companies managing school canteens on a wide scale.
Through collaboration, awareness raising and sharing concerns about how school canteens are managed in the Basque Country, local communities built enough social pressure to convince the Basque Government to set up a pilot project for five schools, allowing them to change the management model of their school canteens. This openeds up new scenarios in which other entities or agents who want to manage these canteens are able to do so.
Who do Allende Salazar de Gernika School Canteen work with and how do they do it?
The non-profit organisation is co-managed by the local public authorities and the parents’ association of the school to which the canteen belongs. This means the project is quite reliant on volunteers.
They work in collaboration with the local government, local producers, a local producers’ umbrella organisation Ehne Bizkaia, a platform called Gure Platera Gure aukera that brings together the school community, and other organisations dealing with the management of school canteens, and the staff in canteens.
This collaboration has enabled them to completely change the way the canteen is managed, and make decisions that reflect the priorities of the local communities, particularly in the best interest of local children and supporting local producers.
The canteen has also played a big role in creating networks and connections between producers and consumers, an example of which is the direct sales platform Baserritik Gernikara.
What are Allende Salazar de Gernika School Canteen main challenges?
There have been difficulties in collaborating with so many actors; the decision-making processes are longer and it can be difficult to collaborate efficiently, particularly because many of the people involved are volunteers.
The COVID-19 pandemic also presented challenges. Restrictions on the number of students who could be present in the canteen at any given time meant that the number of lunchtime sittings had to increase, stretching capacity.
As with any pilot project, trial and error is a part of the learning process. Dynamic day-to-day management is a key part of ensuring all of the necessary issues are addresses, and long decision-making processes can sometimes impede this.
What are the priorities for the Allende Salazar de Gernika School Canteen?
As one of five schools that were part of the pilot project, it is essential for the canteen to exchange with other schools and actors regarding their experiences, in order to ensure the scheme can be rolled out in other schools.
The benefits of this scheme are already visible, with parents, children and producers all providing positive feedback on both the quality of the food and the empowerment and economic opportunities it has offered The potential benefits for the region are huge, if the scheme is extended.
The project also looks to generate additional exchanges and interactions between producers and consumers, outside of the school environment. The focus on healthy eating and locally sourced products in the school was a key part of the creation of the Baserritik Gernikara direct sales platform. The collaborators thought it was essential that this focus on the quality and origins of food was also extended to local citizens and families. The school canteen project hopes to continue to educate and raise awareness.
The scheme also prioritises supporting local farmers, new farmers and farmers who have chosen to produce in agroecological ways. In normal market access conditions, these are groups are often excluded from this kind of public procurement initiative.