“You have been able to put dogs and cats in a closed bag. Everybody got out alive and, more amazing, respecting each other's different points of view and agreeing that we could achieve something together.”

Osler Dezouzart, Brazil

Why the Food Lab?

Why the Food Lab?

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The Food for Health (F4H) innovation initiative is focused on improving the health and education sectors of public and private institutional food systems in Europe and North America.

Download the Summer 2007 International Sustainable Public & Institutional Food Newsletter.

Vision

People in the USA and Europe are eating more meals than ever out of the home—in restaurants, schools, and workplaces. Independent restaurants in many regions have led efforts to bring healthier and more sustainably produced food to their tables. Large institutions such as schools and hospitals have a similar opportunity to help shift regional food systems toward promoting better human health and more sustainable food supplies.

Our aim is to produce a replicable, cost effective model of institutional food service that is based on principles of sustainability, so we can bring rapid, dramatic change to this important segment of the industry.

Context

Around the world, and especially in the US and Europe, the health of the general public is declining not because of too little food, but because of too much food—and too much poor quality food. Rates of obesity and diabetes among children have reached epidemic proportions, posing a grave threat to our public health. Remedial efforts, of course, are more expensive and less effective than well-designed prevention strategies.

In response, school districts, colleges, hospitals, and other organizations are developing food service models that feature food and products that have been produced in environmentally and socially friendly manners, with more organic and local foods. These hundreds of earnest efforts, however, leave us with a paradox that may ultimately lead to the movement’s plateau or even eventual demise. The level of energy, knowledge, time and expense required to launch these programs is enormous, and the benefits most often extend to only a portion of the year-round food supply needed by institutions.

The Food Lab is focusing on connecting, linking, and spreading these islands of good practice so we can create the momentum necessary to produce an irreversible shift towards sustainability and improved health in institutional food service.

Goals

Our aim is to shift institutional food culture and public policy thinking so that healthy food is seen as an essential to health and learning. Toward that end, we are working to:

  • significantly increase the use of healthy and fresh foods into schools and healthcare facilities throughout Europe and North America.
  • help build efficient, more sustainable supply chains for high quality healthy food, from local to international levels, which create genuine links between producer and consumer and which increase product and market access for purchasers and suppliers.
  • create a space where people engaged in research, documentation, policy development, and pilot actions can collaborate to move public or institutional food systems towards greater sustainability.
  • create coherent and replicable strategies, instruments, and policy that lead to the adoption of more sustainable procurement and food education.
  • build a long-term cross-sectoral and intercontinental policy partnership among all stakeholders and user groups of health and education services in Europe and the Americas.

Read more about how we are achieving these goals.