2.6 Organic foods and beverages

Everyone knows that a great festival needs great music, but equally important is the quality of the food and drink. A great event should have great food!

An event that wants to make a comprehensive environmental effort, should consider the possibility of serving ecological food. There are many options for serving food, even if you are not doing the catering yourself, you can choose if the food being served is in line with the events environmental ethos.

When you choose organic products, you make an important environmental decision. Organic farming aims for sustainable production every step of the way, from soil to plants, from animals to humans. Organic farming has documented positive effects on the environment, such as less contamination of soil, water and waterways, greater biodiversity, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Organic farming aims to utilize as many of the farm’s inherent resources as possible, reducing the need for externally acquired resources. Some organic products are produced only in small amounts in Norway, some cannot be produced here at all; hence import is still a necessary evil. However, several reports show that the means of production often have more bearing on emissions/spills than the transport of the finished goods.

Organic agricultural products don’t contain pesticides or chemical fertilizers. It is food with minimal use of additives, such as synthetic preserving agents, colour, and taste. The meat, the eggs, and the milk come from animals that live in conditions that, to the greatest extent possible, approximate their natural habitat. Organic foods also don’t contain growth-enhancers or genetically modified organisms. Today, we have ample scientific evidence as to the superiority and increased health benefits of organic foods over non-organic foods.

All who choose to serve organic foods must be certified by Debio. Debio is the body that controls and certifies organic production, refinement, distribution, and import in Norway. If you wish to acquire Ø-label certification for your event, you have to facilitate monitoring of the festival, and make sure that the Debio guidelines are adhered to. Debio has, together with Oikos – the union of organic consumers and manufacturers – the overview of suppliers that provide organic foods. You can also inquire with other event-organizers about their experience serving organic foods.

Example

The Øya festival cooperates with Oikos – the common organization for organic production and consumption. The goal is that all foods used on the festival will be ecological. The festival choose locally grown vegetables from Vestfold and Buskerud, meat from the Oslo area, and eggs from chickens around Østfold and Telemark. For the festival only natural, spray-free products is good enough for the audience.

Local, fair trade, and slow foods

Other environmental criteria that must be taken into account when food concept and suppliers are decided upon is the distance the food must travel as well as the supporting of local producers, fair trade and the so-called «slow foods». Slow foods challenges fast foods not only with regard to nutritional content and healthy eating habits, but also with regard to how we use our time.

Well in advance (4 – 5 months) of the event:

  • Identify the need, i.e. find out how much food you will need and for whom (artists, volunteers, visitors). Create an overview of how much food you need.
  • Who prepares the food? (volunteers, sports teams, restaurants etc)
  • Who purchases supplies? At large events, it would prove advantageous to appoint one person with the responsibility of purchasing food supplies. Large quantities provide the opportunity to negotiate on price.
  • Contact organic food suppliers well before your event, or approach a local supplier directly.
  • Order all supplies well in advance, and ask for contracts in writing. Ask to return unused commodities.
    A lot of today’s packaging is not adapted to institutional households, so ask if adapted packaging is a possibility.
  • Make preparations for waste handling, e.g. waste sorting.

Tips on food and beverages

  • Choose organic products when possible. A large selection of food and beverages is available.
  • Preferably, choose locally based products, both in order to give your event a distinctive local profile and to avoid unnecessary transportation.
  • Take the season into consideration! If you design your menus with respect to what foods are available in Norway at the time, you can save both money and transportation. You also get a better overview of how the food is produced.
  • Avoid harmful additives
  • Avoid using finished goods (partially or wholly)
  • Avoid using portion packs (like salt, pepper, butter, jam, sugar, etc.)
  • Check with the municipality where unsold food can be delivered. Maybe there are charitable organisations that would appreciate it?

Tips on service and packaging

  • Good solutions for waste disposal are necessary wherever you serve food.
  • Remember that the choice of eating utensils and packaging determines what can be done with the waste afterwards. If you intend to compost it, the waste must be biologically degradable!
  • Provide multi-use eating utensils, although this requires satisfying dishwashing facilities
  • Offer food that can be served without eating utensils (e.g. sandwiches served in napkins).
  • Introduce deposits on packaging that cannot be avoided (pizza boxes, drinking cups etc.)

Remember that everyone who wishes to serve food have to report their plans to Mattilsynet (the official body in Norway overseeing the handling of food whereever it is served or sold). They have strict guidelines for the preparation and handling of food. You can find a complete list of all local Mattilsyn on www.mattilsynet.no.

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