Since 2010, Södertälje Municipality in Sweden has served public school lunches that are healthy for students and the planet. The initiative is known as Diet for a Green Planet.

Our guest today is Sara Jervfors who is the Head of the Diet Unit in Södertälje Municipality and an architect of the system. We talk about what a diet for a green planet is, how more municipalities could transform their lunches to meet these parameters, what incentives are missing to encourage such a diet, and how parents and kids have responded.

  • 4:30 Details of the program
  • 11:50 How kids vs parents respond to new food initiatives
  • 15:40 The ripple effect on the community
  • 18:30 What’s missing to revive local food ecosystems
  • 23:50 The role of politicians

This episode is part of Taste the Transition, a series of lunch conversations during the COP25 climate negotiations highlighting individuals taking climate action through food. Tell us your vision for the food system on or by using the hashtag #NordicClimateAction

2:50 What are you speaking about at Nordic COP25?

3:20 You started this work 20 years ago, what is the history behind the initiative?

No one knew the different between organic and conventional.

4:30 What is the Diet for a Green Planet program about?

It’s encouraging a healthy sustainable diet for us and for the planet. There are a bunch of guidelines for how that can be met.

5:40 What kind of success have you had so far?

70% of the food purchased is organic and we’ve done that with the same budget. We also used to offer 12,000 students only one menu option. Now there are more diverse menu choices.

7:10 What learnings would you want to pass on to other municipalities?

All children have to eat lunch. This meal is a great educational tool and strengthens the local business and agricultural industry. It bolsters self-sufficiency.

9:00 How receptive are kids to new diet options?

They love it. The chefs are in constant dialogue with the kids.

11:50 How are the parents responding to the changes?

The majority of parents are positive, but some of them can be defensive about what they think a healthy diet is, especially around meat and nutrition.

14:25 How do you convince parents that a more plant based diet is beneficial for children?

It’s the national recommendations and we need to follow the guidelines.

15:40 What kind of ripple effects are you seeing in the community from changing the school lunches?

We are very important to local businesses. If we did not purchase from them, they would not survive.

17:00 What is your vision for the food system in 10-15 years?

There should be a number of producers making different kinds of food in our region. The infrastructure for local food is very poor right now. We only have one mill, for example. Otherwise our community becomes very vulnerable.

18:30 What is missing to revive the local food ecosystem?

The municipality has to provide more infrastructure.

19:11 What is your wish list for change from policymakers?

There should be a strategy for how to regionally provide food for systems in the short term and long term.

19:50 What kind of incentives would encourage other municipalities to follow suit?

There should be a food and diet policy in each municipality?

20:45 Who is currently following this program in Sweden?

Lots have programs, but not many source local foods grown in the region. That’s because it’s not in our culture to eat these local ingredients anymore.

22:50 How do you change that culture or mindset?

If there is a policy to use ingredients that we can grow in our climate zone, it creates a natural limit. Then the chefs need to step in and create delicious menus.

23:50 What forums exist for the municipalities to collaborate?

It’s really up the local politicians. Even though we have these national guidelines, it doesn’t mean the politicians follow them.

24:35 What is the role of the citizen in the municipality to demand/ask for this kind of change?

25:05 What collaborations are you looking for?

Public procurement is focused on sourcing the cheapest product, but with food there are a lot of other aspects to take into account. I think the legislation around public procurement for food should be formed in another way, not just in Sweden but throughout the EU.

27:10 What are some of the other cities in Europe you are collaborating with?

28:23 What is the best way to get in touch?