The municipality of Borlänge have developed a food distribution model where food procurement and food transportation have been separated. The model has been in place for 10 years and it is now a good example of best-practice.
Background & Objectives
Over ten years ago, three municipalities in the Swedish Dalarna Region (Gagnef, Säter and Borlänge) decided to change the system of food distribution to schools, kindergartens and adult social care centres, with the aim to separate the transport provider from the supplier of the goods and to develop a distribution system with less negative environmental impacts and increased security as a consequence.
Instead of having numerous trucks stopping at schools and kindergartners several times a day for food deliveries, the new system has been planned to collect food by all suppliers in one distribution centre, and then redeliver.
All distributors leave their food in the centre in Borlänge. From there the food is re-packed and transported to the different locations according to a fixed schedule.Truck driver’s have keys to the storage/freezers in the different units and leave the food directly there with no other personnel assistance needed. The deliveries take place during the night and very early in the morning. This is more convenient for people working in the kitchens as the food has already been delivered when they arrive at work. By doing this, also levels of noise near schools have significantly decreased, road safety has greatly improved, and food is at immediate disposal of kitchen staff when they start to work (thus letting them to plan daily cooking-activities in the most efficient way).
Every week, 50 tonnes of food is delivered, 62% of this via the Borlänge depot. Every four years the municipality and the distribution centre sign an agreement for public procurement, and so municipalities have the chance to set ‘new’ requirements both for vehicles (environmental standards, fuel consumption, type of tires) and for environmental standards.>For example, in the latest procurement round, it was required that distributors would reduce their CO2 emissions by 5% during the agreement period.
As economic figures of the before situation are not available, a strict evaluation is not possible in terms of the economic impacts of the scheme, although, a general improvement in terms of efficiency has been achieved. The number of truck stops for deliveries has reduced by 50 to 75%, mileage has decreased and food prices have become lower. The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) has studied the model and found that transport reduced by 63 %, and estimated this equates to a general saving of 200,000€.
The split between procurement and transport has allowed small local food producers to access the market which was previously ‘closed’. Earlier, some food suppliers were dominating the market, as, in most cases, local producers didn’t have the possibility to deliver their goods on their own (because of scarce economic resources). Now 20% of all food supplies come from small regional producers, which means a reduced impact on the wider environment as more local food suppliers decreases the overall movement of food supplies from around the world.
Lessons learnt concern the importance of working with the model continuously, as non-stop efforts are essential to involve and attract small suppliers. The success of the initiative is mainly due to an innovative idea and the courage of staff and politicians in implementing a new sustainable model for urban food distribution. The distribution network has doubled in its dimension in the last years (3 to 6 municipalities) and the model of Borlänge is ready to be transferred to other cities. At the moment the model is in operation in 10 Swedish municipalities, and a further 30 more have begun their own studies to test the feasibility of a similar model in their cities.