City of Ghent's food strategy 'Gent en Garde'

Strategy and public food procurement practices to enable sustainable short, sustainable supply chain purchasing.

Name of organisation
City of Ghent
Year established
City of Ghent
Ghent, Belgium
Type of organisation
City (public) initiative
Key words 
sustainable public sector food procurement
Thematic focus
Public Food Procurement

Who is City of Ghent?

The City of Ghent is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province, with about 250,000 inhabitants.  The City provides 4,000-4,500 meals per day in 120 locations, including schools where food is served to young people from 2 months to 18 years old.

The short-supply-chain in the food strategy ‘Ghent en Garde’ includes direct purchase from “territorial” producers and the inclusion of the ‘short-supply-chain’ as a criterion in the tender of hot meals for schools/children’s day care/after-school care, hot meals in residential care centres, and other orders for food and beverages.

“Buy local”, by now, is a well-known, simple and good sounding slogan. However, if a government wants to make purchases, the law on public procurement must be respected. The word “local” does not legally fit within the public procurement law because suppliers must be given equal access to compete for a contract. On the other hand, a public authority must be able to compare offers and choose the most economically advantageous tender.  

The City of Ghent chooses to use the term short-supply-chain instead of local when it comes to its own purchases. In this context, the ‘short-supply-chain’ is- one where unnecessary intermediate links, that do not add value, are removed. This allows City of Ghent to reach out to suppliers who produce closer to home, to avoid distortion of the competition, and to strive to pay a fair price to the farmer/producer.

Who do City of Ghent work with and how do they do it?

In order to have successful short-chain procurement, collaboration with various actors involved in food production is essential.

For example, a preliminary study on the short-supply-chain of the City of Ghent with external research partners UGent, ILVO and Rikolto led to the establishment of the cooperative Business to Business (B2B) platform “Vanier” on 1/11/2018. In 2019, the City purchased its products for the Week of the Short-Supply-Chain through this platform. This gave access to more producers and allowed the chefs to propose a creative menu.

Given the administrative burden that a public contract entails and the large volumes purchased by the City of Ghent, past experiences have already shown that direct purchase from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is not easy. To address these challenges, the City of Ghent has chosen to set up a contract that purchases through supplier platforms which bring together producers/farmers in an online shop, where the producer/farmer themselves determines the selling price, that provides for ordering-, delivery-, and payment flow, and that carries out the logistics. 

The policy is overseen by the municipal Council, which regulates everything that is of municipal interest within the territory of Ghent.

What are City of Ghent’s main challenges?

Collaboration in procurement takes place via a negotiated procedure, as this keeps the administrative burden under control and allows more administrative flexibility, which is important when working with more “local” or SMEs. These kinds of contracts are used to procure delicacies (such as goat’s cheese, local mustard, farm butter, asparagus, etc.) rather than large bulk goods (such as potatoes, onions, carrots and UHT milk). Bulk goods are purchased via large traditional suppliers. This is because the value of this contract is limited and the farmers/producers have to be able to deliver the quantities. Therefore, there are limits in what can be procured through short-supply-chain purchasing, and it’s an evolving practice and procedure in the city. There are many challenges and questions, including how to bring more SMEs into the tendering procedures, harmonizing payment systems, and how to ensure demand can be met by suppliers. Through the procurement programmes, the city has been able to understand how to work better with SMEs and have access to higher-quality products.


Within the short food supply-chain that is implemented in Ghent, there are several obstacles with regard to public procurement. These were identified through market research and the publication of tenders aimed at SMEs. These obstacles include (but are not limited to):

  • small supplier focus on business-to-consumer provision(B2C) rather than business-to-business provision (B2B);
  • financial risk for SMEs in entering large tenders;
  • logistical issues;
  • challenges in terms of knowledge and capacity as public procurement law is complex and demanding, with limited accessibility for small producers, and many SMEs lack experience in these large processes.

What are the priorities for Granville Community Kitchen?

The key priorities and strategy are included in Ghent’s procurement strategy. These include:

  1. Minimizing the environmental impact throughout the entire lifecycle with a focus on:
  2. Rational use of energy and independence from non-renewable resources. 
  3. Minimizing the impact on local air quality through efficient and environmentally friendly transportation and logistics. 
  4. Waste prevention.
  5. Encouraging sustainable employment of disadvantaged groups with a focus on:
  6. Increasing the opportunities on the labour market for jobseekers from disadvantaged groups, with specific attention for youth unemployment.  
  7. Strengthening the sustainable growth of the social economy sector. 
  8. Encouraging sustainable innovations.
  9. Fostering local economic growth with special attention for start-ups and innovative companies.
  10. Integrating and assuring international labor standards and consistently incorporating principles of fair trade throughout the supply chain.
  11. Encouraging sustainable entrepreneurship amongst suppliers.
  12. Increasing the maturity of the procurement function and striving towards excellence in procurement.