In Loco is a non-profit Association in the Algarve which was established in 1988 aiming to “promote local-based development to improve quality of life as their overarching vision in an involved, caring and sustainable world.”

The purpose of the guide

The guide was launched to promote local supply models of school canteens under a project aimed at bringing entities responsible for menus in schools to get behind local producers.

“It was produced to support entities in taking a position in reducing the impact on the planet by consuming locally and lowering proximity circuits, specifically looking at canteens and how these entities can become more responsible and informed consumers but also to raise awareness and to persuade locals to become more conscious.”

They also produced a second guide to work alongside this called “Consume locally” which covers the advantages of consuming locally and how to evaluate your food consumption profile. “It also explains why you should opt for local food producers who are on your doorstep. The advantages include: “identity preservation, sustainability of the local economy as well as environmentally and agriculturally and that the flavor and quality can be certified by you.”

Vânia Martins told me that “these two guides were created in different projects but they are under the same umbrella, and that In Loco has a long history with the implementation of sustainable food systems”, which she further explained, means that “they are systems that are based off proximity circuits whereby the distance that the place the food is produced to where it is consumed is very short. This also makes it more sustainable because it is produced in smaller quantities which often uses more responsible and sustainable agricultural methods.”

She added that “local producers have less environmental impact, when it comes to more sustainable practices, small-scale agriculture and also the social impact of promoting not only preservation of the landscape and active agriculture of the territories but also supporting local agricultures at economy level and therefore it is a contributor to the local economy and to local sustainability.”

Current canteen supply models

Vânia explained that “what unfortunately happens in the normal supply of canteens, is that few canteens use local products and that those who manage the canteens seek to have the cheapest meals possible.”

At the moment the two most common school canteen models are as follows: “One being that the canteen has its own management who manufacture the meals and therefore they often get frozen food, often in large quantities which is processed, pre-washed and pre-cooked. The second model is that canteens use a catering service who also often do not use local produce.”

Guidance: In Loco’s two local supply models for canteens

In Loco has two local supply model suggestions in which schools can support local producers and integrate local produce into their canteens. The first canteen model’s solution is for schools to prepare their own meals and to opt for gradually buying and introducing local produce in the meals they serve and making sure that they buy ingredients directly from local producers. Vânia exemplifies this by saying “schools could start with a pilot project, whereby they make their soups with local or biological produce so that they slowly start to introduce this model which will also give local producers time to organize themselves and be able to respond to this.”

In regards to schools who contract a catering company, In Loco suggests that “schools should be assertive, whereby they set out a menu with clauses so that the catering company follows the usage of local products in school meals.”

Is buying local produce more expensive?

Vânia explained that “the point of these guides is also to try to demystify the myth that buying locally ends up being more expensive or too complicated, affirming that a lot of the time it is down to coming to a compromise with the producer in terms of a fair cost for both parties.”

Vânia also added that “this myth is often used as an excuse for not buying locally, if we are talking about biological products then evidently, they will be more expensive as biological production is produced in smaller quantities so it always comes out more expensive than other productions but there is always local produce with the possibility of negotiating prices.”

Further explaining that “part of our mission is to raise awareness to managers of the canteens in order for them to be informed about the importance of choosing fresh food with nutritional value rather than frozen meals or pre-made meals that have travelled far to get here. Everything is possible and these positive actions reward the territory’s economy, as well as environmentally, and health wise.”

How you can shop more locally

In Loco have an app and website called “Case Fazem” which gives local food producers a platform and informs users of the local producers near you. They have collected and mapped local producers in the Algarve. “These producers have a seal of quality given by us because we have verified that they are responsible and are actually local producers who don’t produce in large quantities and they are ethical with their practices.” On the app you can search by producer and by types of food but you cannot actually buy the products from the app and website. “Case Fazem” allows you to see the local producers contact details in order to get in touch with them to pick up food from them directly or find out if they sell their products near you. For more information, please see www.casefazem.pt.

Additionally, they have a second platform called “Prato Certo” which is linked more to food education and the benefits of a Mediterranean diet as well as buying locally within your region. This platform has an extensive list of local producers in the whole territory. The difference between “Prato Certo” and “Case Fazem”, is that “Case Fazem’s” producers are just from the Algarve and that they have been checked by In Loco whereas “Prato Certo” is just a list local producer which may be useful if you are living outside of the Algarve. For more information about “Prato Certo” please see www.pratocerto.pt.

Current Projects and the Future

Vânia told me that “they are preparing for new projects but at the moment they are running the “Prato Certo” project and an additional project in Tavira whereby they are implementing community gardens in Tavira's neighborhoods so that residents can grow their own vegetables and fruit.”

Finally, if you are interested in supporting In Loco’s projects please do donate as they are not fully financed so all donations are greatly received and support them in their mission. For more information about In Loco, please see http://in-loco.pt/ where you will also find the free informative guides and if you would like to get in touch with In Loco directly, please call +351 289 840 860 or email geral@in-loco.pt.