Name of organisation
The GASAP Network
GASAP: 2009 / Project: 2017
Brussels area, Belgium
Type of organisation
Community Supported Agriculture Network
short food supply chains; civic food networks; social justice
Public Procurement; Accessibility; Consumer Information and Education
Who is GASAP'Ecole?
The project’s ambition is to create GASAPs (Groupements d’achat solidaires de l’agriculture paysanne, a Belgian version of Community Supported Agriculture – CSA) in Brussels schools, with a view:
- to expand the GASAP offer in Brussels by making it more accessible to families;
- to make children aware of sustainable and healthy food in the long term.
This experience is unique and could pave the way for further collaboration with schools elsewhere in Belgium and in Europe. Schools are one of the last places where different social classes can meet and share common values. It is vital for civic collaborative food initiatives, and more particularly CSAs, to have more activities in schools if their goal is to avoid the “only between us” trap. GASAP’Ecole is thus an innovative experience that other initiatives anywhere in the world can build upon.
The GASAP (Groupes d’Achat Solidaires de l’Agriculture Paysanne) partnerships promote direct sales and solidarity between consumers and small producers. The GASAP network is the federating body of GASAPs. Its mission is to develop tools to facilitate exchange between members (producers and consumers). The network also plays a role in mediating and raising awareness on the realities of peasant agriculture.
GASAP are one form of the broader model of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Consumers commit to buying a share of production (the “basket”) for a growing season and to paying the producer in advance. This commitment is essential to support the farmer: it gives him a long-term vision of his cultivation plans and ensures a stable income.
Today, the GASAP network gathers 96 GASAPs in Brussels and 5 in Wallonia, i.e. nearly 5,700 people who support the activities of 41 producers, mainly located in Wallonia, throughout the year. The GASAPs are supplied by 20 vegetable growers, 7 breeders, 14 other producers (honey, juice, mushrooms, bread, etc.).
The GASAP network is a non-profit association. It is a small structure whose staff varies between 1 and 4 people for a working time varying between 1.2 and 2.8 FTE (full time equivalent). Overall the GASAP network is articulated around the following 3 circles:
- the Board of Directors (5 members).
The interaction between these circles is evolving over time according to the resources of the association in terms of staff.
The main objectives of GASAP’Ecole are the following:
- Waste reduction (bulk deliveries).
- Reduction of consumption in other distribution channels
- Economic impact on the local economy.
- Encouraging the creation of environmental projects in schools.
- Encouragement of a healthy lifestyle.
GASAP’Ecole also allows to create new links in the school curriculum: teachers and educators are invited to participate in the organisation of the GASAP sessions. In the pilot experience, the children loved meeting farmers, discovering how their food is produced, visiting the fields, preparing baskets, handling vegetables, asking questions, weighing, counting, etc. All this brought them into contact with sustainable food via their senses. This kind of experience “leaves its mark” and contributes to the reflections that these children will have as adults on the way their food is produced.
Finally, GASAP’Ecole also contributes to awareness raising in new segments of the society. This can lead to the consumption of more vegetables than usual, or even to the discovery of other vegetables. It can also encourage a lower consumption of animal proteins. In a GASAP, the consumption is also based on seasonality. In any case, GASAP members’ eating habits often change afterwards.
Who does the GASAP’Ecole work with and how does it do it?
GASAP’Ecole is based on a wide collaboration between local producers, food processors, eaters, local public authorities and public schools.
During the first year of the project, numerous contacts were established with the municipal education system, in particular via the aldermen for education and sustainable development in Brussels. These meetings led to direct contacts with school principals and parents’ associations in some municipalities. The project could be presented and contact persons in schools could be identified. The collaboration also includes local organisations that have been working with the GASAP network for several years (Oxfam-Solidarité, Le début des Haricots, the network supporting new entrants into agriculture, FIAN-Belgium as well as many Brussels and Wallonia -focused associations and NGOs). Some partners are already working on food and agriculture related activities in schools. They do already have a large experience with facilitating the first contacts of the network. Other new partnerships are also being set up with federations of parents and the Bubble network (a network of Brussels projects aimed at schools) to increase the visibility of the project.
The main advantage of the collaboration is to make the network better known. This is how the GASAP network manages to create interest in the project and gets in touch with enthusiastic groups. Moreover, collaborations also lead to a better sharing of animation tools or awareness-raising materials, which enriches our contacts with schools.
Territorial collaboration is a key element of the project, as local authorities are in charge of the administrative management of schools.
In the future, the network’s know-how could be an opportunity to collaborate on projects such as:
- A tool for managing supply and demand in the Brussels Region to make the links and connections in times of crisis.
- A reflection for the implementation of the Brussels food belt.
- Gear up by adapting the GASAP social contract to local authorities and participate in discussions on more sustainable public procurement.
What are GASAP’Ecole’s main challenges?
A first challenge is to be able to offer complete support to schools through a partnership with other associations. For example, collaborations could be established with associations that help create collective vegetable gardens in schools, with associations that train in compost management, with associations that support school canteens and raise awareness about sustainable food, etc. All of these exist, but are still too marginal which makes collaboration difficult.
A second challenge is to handle the growth of the GASAP network. Many producers and eaters want to join the GASAP Network. Wannabe GASAP eaters often end up on a waiting list, and it is always a challenge to turn those waiting lists into new groups. For producers, the challenge is to organise individual meetings to evaluate whether they can join the network: are they in line with the charter? What type of products are they proposing? What is the distance between producers and eaters? Would they be in competition with other producers from the network etc.? The demand from producers is strong because the GASAP network offers a decent price for the food that is sourced from farmers. For eaters who entered a GASAP during the lockdown, the challenge is to sustain their change of habit.
A third challenge is how to generate food system transformation. As far as the wider public and the policymakers are concerned, the GASAP network does not have, in isolation, the power to convert them to sustainable food. To address this challenge, the network is collaborating with various food policy coalitions, including the Agroecology in action! platform.
A fourth challenge concerns accessibility of food for low-income consumers. Contacts are being made with various associations working with disadvantaged people in order to find ways of reducing this food divide (neighbourhood kitchens, medical centres). In addition, the GASAP network is participating in discussions on the development of Food Social Security.
Finally, collaboration with municipalities is difficult. As far as collaboration with the municipalities is concerned, contact is often slow (in one year we can expect to organise 7 meetings in total while Brussels counts a total of 19 municipalities). Moreover, within the municipality there are sometimes tensions between the person in charge of education and the one in charge of transition, which can make the situation uncomfortable. Cooptation can also be a challenge.
A municipality helped the GASAP network get in touch with two of its schools. A GASAP was set up there which, unfortunately, was then renamed after a former Mayor of the municipality.
What are the priorities for GASAP’Ecole?
Through the work in schools, to broaden the target audience, since there is a more diverse audience in schools than when citizen groups are formed by affinity. This is important because a comprehensive study of the membership of GASAPs has been conducted, with the clear outcome that GASAP members are educated middle-class citizens.
To reach people who would not spontaneously join a GASAP. The GASAP at school makes it possible to pick up one’s children and vegetables/fruits at the same time. It saves time and is not an additional step in the family’s journey. It is therefore possible to raise awareness among a different public that would not have taken the step of looking for a GASAP otherwise.
We want to broaden this base by reaching a public “in conversion,” i.e., those interested in local, healthier, organic food, etc., but without having changed their purchasing behaviour yet.