- freely available
Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 4245; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10114245
2. Local Food Value Chains in School Catering
- Marsden, Banks, & Bristow  define short food supply chain as an umbrella term for value chains that are characterized by ‘relations of proximity’ between the producer and the consumer. This can mean that there is face-to-face interaction between producer and consumer, or as in the case of local school catering, that food is sold in the region where it was produced and consumers are aware of the origin of the product [22,23]. The concept is commonly used to describe alternatives to long and complex chains that have a large number of intermediaries and diminish the proportion of total added value that remains with the original producers or within the region [22,23].
- The concept of values-based supply chains places emphasis on both the values associated with differentiated food products and the values that characterize the relationships between value chain actors . Values-based supply chains are characterized by product differentiation (e.g., through social and environmental values embedded in products), as well as by partnerships, trust, shared governance, and a common commitment to the welfare of all participants [24,25]. Values-based supply chains may comprise strategic partnerships of midscale farms and other food enterprises that aim to handle high volumes of differentiated products, operate effectively on a regional level, and distribute their profits equitably between partnering companies .
3. Value Chains as Social Systems
- External structures are the actors’ context. They include all conditions of action that exist independently of the actors.
- Internal structures describe what the actors know and how they think. This includes the actors’ values and attitudes as well as their understanding of the context.
- Practices describe how actors draw on internal structures to interact within their context.
- Outcomes describe how both external and internal structures are produced and reproduced by actors’ practices.
4.1. Data Collection
- Introduction: The interviewee’s background and details about their company.
- Perspectives on value chain practices: Relevant actors and their interaction within the value chain focusing on the production, distribution, and procurement of organic vegetables.
- Perspectives on the organic vegetable industry: Recent market developments focusing on the Berlin school catering procurement policy.
- Wrap up: The opportunity for interviewees to add and ask questions.
4.2. Data Analysis
5. Results und Discussion
5.1. Value Chain Actors’ Conduct: Internal Structures and Practices
We use organic food because we got our school catering contracts through tenders. There are certain tendering criteria and the catering companies can offer a percentage of organic food [which they guarantee to they will use], which is equivalent to a certain number of points in the tendering process, so you are more likely to be awarded the contract. There are a maximum number of points to be awarded for an organic share of 56%, and that’s what we offered. So the school meals we provide use 56% organic ingredients.(Caterer 4: kitchen manager, 7000 meals per day)
It’s parents, of course, who ask for local food. Local sourcing, that’s one thing that’s always requested. And I tell them we’ll do our best. But in the end, as I said, our main supplier is [local organic wholesaler] and we can only buy what [local organic wholesaler] has to offer in terms of local food.(Caterer 1: owner of catering company, 900 meals per day)
In general, this is a very important concept for us. Using a lot of organic vegetables, whenever possible fresh and local—because we want to provide healthy meals. But, of course, we also need to make compromises […], for example, beans in winter and, of course, canned tomatoes and canned corn and preprocessed sauerkraut. And sometimes preprocessed potatoes, which we know are not from the region. [...] My cooks don’t have time to peel potatoes for eight hours. We don’t have the capacity and then we need to use that [preprocessed] stuff.(Caterer 2: owner of a catering company, 1000 meals per day)
We always tell our suppliers that we want it [local and seasonal produce] whenever possible. The determining factors are (a) [pre-processed] qualities and (b) price. It is that simple.(Caterer 4: kitchen manager, 7000 meals per day)
Of course, you have to remember that we are in a very low-price segment. A school meal costs about EUR 3.25 and of that, we can use a maximum of EUR 1 for the cost of goods. […] We have committed ourselves to using organic, so we do. But if, for example, an organic apple from Germany is twice as expensive as one from Spain, we take the Spanish one.(Caterer 5: procurement manager, 30,000 meals per day)
Delivery reliability is very important for us. We need to make sure we get what we ordered. We plan in advance. We do plan our menus and we need to follow he plan. If it doesn’t work out once, that won’t be the end of the world, but in general, we need to follow the menu plan. And we rely on getting what we order [...] so we have two different wholesalers that supply us with peeled potatoes, organic and conventionally produced.(Caterer 1: owner of a catering company, 900 meals per day)
We have an arrangement with our suppliers that if we need peeled potatoes, we can call them until noon and they will deliver the goods the next day. This is really important with regards to shelf life, ordering processes, and the logistics involved—and that’s why we have a fixed supplier. Because we do not have large storage capacities in our kitchens, we have to be able to rely on the supplier being really flexible so that we can order often—sometimes on a daily basis.(Caterer 5: procurement manager, 30,000 meals per day)
If I always purchased directly from farmers, there would be a lot of effort needed for coordination and there’s also the risk that their car breaks down or that something else goes wrong [...] and I’d be stuck here alone with no vegetables.(Caterer 1: owner of a catering company, 900 meals per day)
Organic school catering is an important factor for organic wholesale in Berlin. On one hand, there are caterers who are committed to using organic food even without any guidelines—and have done so for a long time. On the other hand, the procurement guidelines encourage caterers who are not big fans of organic food to look into organic as well. This includes large companies that operate nationally and internationally.(Wholesaler 2: managing director, full-range organic food wholesaler)
In season, we source a large share [of vegetables] locally. This means from Berlin, Brandenburg, and the districts bordering Brandenburg. We definitely try to source from nearby. When it comes to local fruits and vegetables, local organic wholesalers are important because they have long-standing relationships with farmers.(Wholesaler 2: managing director, full-range organic food wholesaler)
We thought, there are so many farmers—we just need to show them what we do and they will sign up. But that’s not how it is. You need to adapt to the processes of farmers and it takes a long time to establish relationships [with farmers] in Brandenburg.(Wholesaler 1: managing director, organic vegetables wholesaler)
In our first year, we started out very idealistic, with a diversity of vegetables crops, direct marketing, and things like that. But at some point, we realized that it is so much work and just not worth it. […] since then, we have developed our business in such a way that we sell 90% [through wholesale], which means specializing in specific vegetable crops.(Farmer 2: 5 ha, wholesale supplier)
If we weren’t based here [near Berlin], it really would be much harder. That’s just the way it is. We have the great advantage of being here.(Farmer 3: 13 ha, distribution through direct marketing and organic wholesale)
There could be more farms. There are still a lot of goods brought in from outside the region and I am not just talking about exotic fruit. Also things that we stock for January or February—onions, carrots, our supply only lasts for a certain time. Because there is so little vegetable production, so much more could be done, also with regards to storage. Demand is growing steadily.(Farmer 2: 5 ha, distribution through organic wholesale)
Berlin is our main sales market, but the problem is that you need time to get there. If you start out growing vegetables, you don’t have time for anything. You don’t have time for a farmers’ market and you don’t have time to drive your produce to Berlin. It would take way too much time—time that you need on your fields. That’s why intermediaries who take your products to Berlin are so interesting.(Farmer 1: 1 ha, distribution through direct marketing)
In high season, I sometimes need to sell surplus produce [...]. So, if a catering company calls and asks what we have, I’ll tell him, say, that we have oversized celery, for example. If he then takes 100 kilos of it, it may make sense to actually drive there [to deliver it].(Farmer 5: 25 ha, distribution through direct marketing and organic wholesale)
Our relationship with local wholesale is based on partnership. Once a year, they bring producers together to discuss prices and requirements. And they put local first. If a product is available locally, they will go to great lengths to source it locally.(Farmer 4: 20 ha, distribution through direct marketing and organic wholesale)
5.2. Context Analysis: Structural Factors
Conflicts of Interest
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|Farmer 1||Owner||Distribution through direct marketing||1 ha|
|Farmer 2||Owner||Distribution through organic wholesale||5 ha|
|Farmer 3||Owner||Distribution through direct marketing and organic wholesale||13 ha|
|Farmer 4||Production manger||Distribution through direct marketing and organic wholesale||20 ha|
|Farmer 5||Owner||Distribution through direct marketing and organic wholesale||25 ha|
|Wholesaler 1||Managing director||Organic vegetables wholesaler||3 employees|
|Wholesaler 2||Managing director||Full-range organic food wholesaler||50 employees|
|Wholesaler 3||Managing director||Full-range food wholesaler||250 employees|
|Caterer 1||Owner||100% organic *, operating in Berlin||900 meals/day|
|Caterer 2||Owner||100% organic *, operating in Berlin||1000 meals/day|
|Caterer 3||Kitchen manager||100% organic *, operating in Berlin||1200 meals/day|
|Caterer 4||Kitchen manager||56% organic *, operating in Berlin||7000 meals/day|
|Caterer 5||Procurement manager||40% organic *, operating in Berlin and Brandenburg||30,000 meals/day|
|Caterer 6||Department manager for catering services||40% organic *, operating nationwide, centralized procurement||40,000 meals/day|
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