After several years of work with primary schools and organic growers in Serbia, the results of these Strength2Food activities are having a tangible impact. To improve the nutritional quality of school meals and encourage schools to use short food supply chains for their food procurements, EUTA has been working with nearly 30 primary schools. The first of these (OŠ Kralj Petar I, Belgrade) submitted procurement documents for fresh organic vegetables to the procurement web portal in July, 2020.

EUTA has been able to demonstrate that organic vegetables are a realistic option for parents to afford. Despite the relatively high prices commanded by organic vegetables in Serbia, compared with EU countries, EUTA demonstrated that organic fresh vegetables would increase annual food budgets by around only 5-6%, provided they buy direct from certified local organic growers. Furthermore, EUTA has helped cover this small cost increase by preparing selections of weekly lunch menus with balanced macronutrients, vitamins and minerals that children like to eat but which are cheaper than many current lunches provided by schools making their own meals using conventional vegetables.

To ensure there were local organic growers who were willing and able to bid for school food procurements, EUTA also had to identify a dedicated and committed group of organic growers who could provide all the certificates as evidence of organic quality, who had the capacity to provide the quantities needed, and the ability to deliver them when needed by the school cook. Earlier this year we assisted several growers to form a new organic vegetable supply cooperative specifically to bid for school food contracts. BioLogika is Serbia’s first such organic cooperative, and EUTA is now working with this cooperative to ensure that its interactions with OŠ Kralj Petar I, run smoothly.

EUTA has provided advice to ensure that the procurement documentation was completed correctly and submitted by the deadline to receive bids. Having won the contract in late August by offering the lowest bid, the cooperative is now getting help from EUTA to organise the weekly logistics for the co-operative’s high-quality organic vegetables to reach the school as required by the school cook. Some of the organic vegetables delivered to the school are shown below.

After an initial round of telephone calls, emails and Zoom meetings with EUTA, a pattern for reliable delivery arrangements has quickly become established. The school is now in its third week using organic vegetables for the lunches, with the start of its lunch provision delayed by the school’s Covid-19 arrangements. Now that schools are working again, meetings will be taking place with our other school directors to support them to buy organic vegetables, and we hope this will be the first of many forward-looking primary schools in Serbia to provide healthy, local-grown organic food for their children.

Steve Quarrie, Ratko Bojović, Richard Simmons, EUTA, Belgrade