Special Issue "Public Food Procurement: A Transformative Instrument for Sustainable Food Systems"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Social Ecology and Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 September 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Danny Hunter
Guest Editor
Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, 00054 Rome, Italy
Interests: healthy; sustainable diets; sustainable food systems; sustainable food procurement; agroecology; agricultural biodiversity and genetic resources; biodiversity and human health; indigenous food systems
Dr. Luana F. Joppert Swensson
Guest Editor
Food and Nutrition Division (ESN), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Rome, Italy
Interests: sustainable public procurement; home-grown school feeding policies and regulatory frameworks; public procurement regulation, development; comparative law
Dr. Florence Tartanac
Guest Editor
Food and Nutrition Division (ESN), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Rome, Italy
Interests: food systems; institutional food procurement; sustainable value chain development and inclusive business models; voluntary standards and geographical indications; small and medium food enterprise development
Prof. Sergio Schneider
Guest Editor
Department of Sociology, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, 90.040-000 Porto Alegre, Brazil
Interests: food issues; rural development; food security; rural non-agricultural activities; family farming; territorial development; rural and food policies
Mr. Mark Stein
Guest Editor
Business School, University of Salford, M5 4WT Manchester, UK
Interests: sustainable food procurement for public kitchens

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Food systems, if considered from production to consumption, are responsible for up to 37% of global GHG emissions and 60% of global terrestrial biodiversity loss, and they are a major driver of land conversion, and deforestation. Environmental pressures are expected to significantly increase with population, urbanization, and dietary shifts. Dietary patterns have a strong influence on overall GHGs since demand drives food production and associated emissions. At the same time, supplying healthy food at affordable costs is key for food security and an important means by which to reduce poverty and the related health problems of the world’s growing population.

Policies that operate across the food system can contribute both to food security and environmental sustainability. One of these cross-cutting policy fields is public food procurement (PFP).

Sustainable PFP policies can be used to promote healthy diets, based on sustainable food systems, in workplaces, schools, universities, hospitals, aged care facilities, and other venues at which public meals are provided. A key characteristic of PFP is that it has the possibility to determine not only the way food is procured but also (i) what food will be purchased (such as local, diverse, nutritious, healthy, culturally adequate), (ii) from whom (e.g., from local and/or smallholder farmers, small and medium food enterprises, women, youth, and/or other vulnerable groups), and (iii) from which type of production (e.g., from agroecology or organic or other modes of agricultural production that ensure environmental sustainability as well as biodiversity). PFP also determines how food will be received, stored, distributed, prepared, and its waste managed.

Considering the extent of public sector demand and the ways in which food procurement choices are made, PFP has considerable potential to influence both food consumption and food production patterns and to deliver multiple social, economic, and environmental benefits to the food system. This includes the potential to promote the consumption and trigger the production of biodiverse, climate friendly, and resource-saving products among not only direct food consumers but also food producers and the community in general.

This Special Issue will collect articles from academics, researchers, and practitioners exploring innovative approaches and methods in the field of sustainable public food procurement practice and policy, with a particular focus on the use of PFP policies as an instrument to promote environmental sustainability and possible means by which to measure its impacts, areas in which research is currently lacking. The topic of sustainable public food procurement is also one that is particularly relevant to the current COVID-19 pandemic and any post-pandemic recovery. This is one of the key issues which will be addressed in this Special Issue.

The Guest Editors are particularly interested in potential topics including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Innovative approaches, methods, and tools that measure the environmental (as well as social and economic) impacts of public sector food procurement, including:

-Decision support tools that monitor and evaluate the environmental impacts of different food procurement scenarios

- Life cycle assessment approaches that measure GHG emissions, water use, fertilizer and pesticide use, soil health, etc.

  • Sustainable public food procurement practice and policies (related to schools, universities, healthcare, prisons, and/or public work settings) that

- Promote agroecology, organic and regenerative agriculture approaches, and agrobiodiversity and strengthen environmental sustainability

- Promote the use of seasonal menus, fresh products, and reduced animal product usage, with contributions to health and environmental outcomes

- Reduce food waste

- Promote the use of local (short circuits) and traditional products, taking into consideration smallholder agriculture production and small and medium food enterprises

- Promote the integration of native and indigenous foods into school procurement and other relevant settings which aim to reconnect communities with local foodways. 

  • Role of regulatory frameworks and complementary policies in the implementation of sustainable food procurement initiatives (e.g., public procurement legislation, organic policies and legislations, etc.)
  • Extent to which sustainable public food procurement practices and policies take into account the SDGs, 2030 Agenda, and bioeconomy-related policy strategies

Dr. Danny Hunter
Dr. Luana F. Joppert Swensson
Dr. Florence Tartanac
Prof. Sergio Schneider
Mr. Mark Stein
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • sustainable public procurement
  • institutional procurement
  • environmental sustainability
  • agrobiodiversity
  • neglected and underutlized species (NUS)
  • agroecology
  • organic food
  • policies and legislation
  • carbon footprint
  • food systems
  • indigenous food systems
  • sustainable and healthy diets
  • local, culturally appropriate food
  • meat consumption
  • procurement law and regulatory frameworks
  • school feeding
  • small farmers
  • food safety and quality standards
  • food waste

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessReview
Identifying a Sustainable Food Procurement Strategy in Healthcare Systems: A Scoping Review
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 2398; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13042398 - 23 Feb 2021
Viewed by 252
The healthcare system’s climate footprint is equivalent to 4.4% of global net emission. The food service offered, with subsequent food waste production and energy consumption, falls within the spectrum of environmentally harmful activities. The development of a Sustainable Food Procurement Strategy is an [...] Read more.
The healthcare system’s climate footprint is equivalent to 4.4% of global net emission. The food service offered, with subsequent food waste production and energy consumption, falls within the spectrum of environmentally harmful activities. The development of a Sustainable Food Procurement Strategy is an opportunity to counteract these negative effects. This article aims to identify the nature and extent of the evidence found in the literature on the processes related to food procurement within healthcare systems and analyse them from the perspective of sustainability dimensions. A scoping review is carried out using online databases to identify scientific and grey literature published in English during the period 2000–2019. An analytical-synthetic approach is used for charting the data. Twenty-six studies are included; 65% of them published in the last five years. These include research articles (n 11), an opinion article (n 1), policy handbooks and guides (n 2), project reports (n 4) and technical reports (n 3), policy forums (n 1), factsheet documents (n 3), and legislative directives (n 1). The outcomes framework highlights multilevel governance, a sustainable food supply system, and healthy and sustainable food services as the main action areas for a sustainable food procurement strategy, along with six transversal features: long-term commitment, investment, evaluation, communication, gender, and a holistic approach. Full article
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