Food Policies: How the cantons of Lucerne and Zurich ensure sustainable nutrition
12. September 2023

Food Policies: How the cantons of Lucerne and Zurich ensure sustainable nutrition

By Foodways

Food plays a crucial role in the environment and climate. What we eat, how we produce it and how much we waste has a significant impact on our planet. That’s why it’s important to advocate for a sustainable diet that is both healthy and environmentally friendly. But how can we achieve this? And what role do the cantons play in this endeavor?

In this blog post, we present two examples from the cantons of Lucerne and Zurich that show how cantons and municipalities can advocate for sustainable nutrition and what measures they can take.

What are Food Policies?

Food policies are public measures that address how food is produced, processed, distributed, purchased, or provided. They are designed to affect the operation of the food and agricultural system while ensuring human health needs are met. They often include decisions about production and processing techniques, marketing, availability, use, and consumption of food in the interest of achieving or promoting social or environmental goals. Food policies can be enacted at any level, from local to global, by a government agency, business or organization

Lucerne: An Organic Offensive and the Prevention of Food Waste

In order to promote the sale of organic products from Lucerne, the Canton of Lucerne has introduced the “Organic Action Plan”. In collaboration with Bio Luzern and the Lucerne Farmers’ Association, the canton is implementing measures along the entire value chain.

This initiative comes at the right time, as the organic sector and the demand for organic products in Switzerland are continuously growing. In 2022, the market share of organic was already 11.2 percent. The Canton of Lucerne intends to further boost this growth and promote it in a targeted manner. The goal of the action plan is therefore to increase the sale of organic products from Lucerne and to increase the share of organically farmed agricultural land.

The plan includes specific goals:

In addition, the Canton of Lucerne intends to strengthen the exchange of knowledge between research, education and consulting in organic farming. Cooperation between producers and regional processing companies is to be significantly intensified in order to further increase the market share of organic products. As a major agricultural canton, the number of organic farms in Lucerne has already more than doubled since 2000 and now stands at 485 farms. The share of organic farms is currently around 11.1 percent (Switzerland: 16.2 percent).

Food Save Lucerne

In addition to organic production, avoiding food waste is also an essential aspect of sustainable nutrition. The Canton of Lucerne has therefore developed a food waste reduction strategy that includes various measures to avoid, reduce and recycle food waste.

Because all too often, food ends up in the trash instead of on the plate. According to the Federal Office for the Environment, 2.6 million tons of food waste are generated in Switzerland every year – about one-tenth of which is generated in the catering industry. With the “Food Save Luzern” project, the canton of Lucerne is getting involved in cooperation with United Against Waste (UAW). United Against Waste is an initiative of the Swiss food industry that works to reduce food waste and aims to halve food waste in the industry.

A total of 30 catering businesses will be supported in the project to reduce their food waste and thereby save additional costs. All participating businesses receive comprehensive coaching at the outset, then regularly measure their food waste and have the opportunity to share experiences with other participating businesses. After the analysis, an action plan outlines how waste and costs can be saved. United Against Waste’s experience shows that simple measures such as balanced portions and thoughtful shopping planning can sustainably reduce food waste by an average of 35 percent. The project involves a total of three measurements over a period of two years.

Impressive results at Lucerne Cantonal Hospital

The Luzerner Kantonsspital (LUKS) has been a showcase in this area since 2018 and has achieved impressive results. After an initial measurement of the current state and subsequent systematic and continuous efforts, LUKS achieved a 50 percent reduction in food waste. Since then, the cantonal hospital has continued to actively implement measures to sustainably save food waste in the kitchen over the long term.

Zurich: Sustainable nutrition guidelines and Future Food Initiative

The canton of Zurich has also developed a “Sustainable Nutrition Guideline,” which formulates the vision of a healthy, enjoyable and environmentally friendly diet for all. This is because nutrition has a significant impact on our environment and accounts for 28 percent of environmental pollution in Switzerland. Changing our eating habits therefore makes a significant contribution to resource conservation and climate protection and holds great potential for an environmentally, socially and economically compatible supply chain.

The mission statement of the Canton of Zurich is based on the following principles:

For example, the following measures are available to implement the mission statement:

The networking of actors from science, business and society who are committed to sustainable nutrition.

The challenges and opportunities of food policies

In order to implement tailor-made food policies, various actors need to be involved, such as governments, farmers’ associations, consumer and environmental organizations, and scientists. It is important to take into account the different interests and perspectives and to find a consensus.

One of the biggest challenges in implementing food policies in municipalities and cantons is therefore often to bring stakeholders to the table and to proceed in a coordinated manner.

At the same time, food policies also offer many opportunities for sustainable development. They can help improve public health and well-being, protect the environment, strengthen local economies, and promote social justice. They can also serve as a model for other regions and contribute to global food security.

One example of the networking of actors from science, business and society who are committed to sustainable nutrition is the Future Food Initiative. This is a collaboration between ETH Zurich, EPFL and several Swiss companies dedicated to developing innovative and sustainable solutions for global nutrition. The initiative promotes interdisciplinary research and knowledge transfer in the fields of nutrition science, food technology and agricultural sciences.

Some examples of research projects include:

Exploring untapped food sources, such as algae or insects.

How can citizens have an impact?

But citizens can also influence the design and implementation of food policies in a variety of ways. For example, they can participate in public debates or engage in consultation processes. To exert direct influence, they can also collect signatures, start petitions or surveys.

In addition, they can get involved in associations or initiatives that promote sustainable nutrition. This can motivate and inspire others to also work for sustainability. After all, sustainability is networking.

But it also makes sense to rethink one’s own consumption behavior and make conscious decisions. It can therefore be just as helpful if interested parties obtain specific information on topics relating to sustainable nutrition.

Food policies: guidelines for more sustainability

Food policies are political frameworks that promote access to healthy nutrition. They take into account not only the individual needs of consumers, but also the social, environmental and economic aspects of food systems. In this article, we have presented two examples of Food Policies from Switzerland: the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Nutrition of the Canton of Zurich and the Policy for Demand-driven and Environmentally Sustainable Production of the Canton of Lucerne. These examples show how food policies can help to promote sustainable development. Citizens can also influence the design and implementation of food policies in various ways. After all, the cantons of Lucerne and Zurich are just two examples of the commitment within Switzerland to sustainable food. There are many other initiatives and projects at the national and local level that help to ensure that we can eat healthily and in an environmentally conscious manner.


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