Founder & Director, Menjadors Ecològics
Fellow project website: www.menjadorsecologics.cat/ca/coneix-nos/
Nani Moré has pioneered and grown a new ecosystem supplying sustainable, nutritious food at an affordable cost through collective kitchens in schools, hospitals, civic centers, and care homes across Spain, where food deficits are surprisingly widespread. By connecting kitchen chefs, staff, and municipal food procurement procedures with local organic food producers, she has turned Spain’s collective kitchen system into a powerful strategy for fighting malnutrition, building spirit, and helping the environment.
THE NEW IDEA
Public kitchens in Spain were originally conceived as a way of feeding infants. Today Spain’s nationwide system of collective catering kitchens in schools, hospitals, civic centers, and care homes serves 5 million meals each day. They are the chief resource for feeding vulnerable populations including children, the sick, and the elderly. But for cost reasons, they typically serve low-quality overprocessed, unhealthy, and unappetizing food. Nani Moré’s work is changing that. She understood that collective kitchens in Spain could be the key to a reimagined food system centered on quality, nutrition, and health. And she knew from experience that high food prices need not force kitchens to serve food of low quality. By linking the chefs and staff of collective kitchens with municipal procurement and local agriculture, she formed a new ecosystem that delivers healthy, nutritious food inexpensively.
Her approach integrates an otherwise siloed food system from end to end, connecting the local farmers growing the food, the municipal workers who procure it for collective kitchens, and the cooks who prepare it. She knew from experience that one determined chef could transform her own kitchen and reasoned that a network of determined chefs working together could transform the whole food system, so she built one.
She focuses on locally produced organic and seasonal foods, and how to get them into collective kitchens within their current budgets. Her method involves exposing the lack of transparency and hidden costs in the current food procurement system and replacing this with alternative planning, open bidding, and billing procedures. They facilitate three-way, collaborative relationships between farmers, municipalities, and kitchens, instead of the usual top-down relationship where procurement decisions are based on cost, then imposed on kitchens.
Nani Moré [is a] founding partner of Menjadors Ecològics (“Ecological Eaters”), which brings together professionals from different fields (production, food, and education), to promote local organic production, and with it a healthy, educational, sustainable, and fair model [for combating hunger] in Spain, [where] 5 million people eat in schools, hospitals, and residences each day. - FORBES
This sets up a local virtual circle or closed loop which stimulates and sustains demand for local, organic produce, making it possible for local farmers to commit to producing more of it to meet demand and selling it at affordable prices, which in turn makes it possible for procurers to order more of it and for public kitchens to serve more of it. In the long run, this will also extend to local shops and markets, making healthy food available and affordable for the whole community.
Nani Moré calls these local loops “short supply circuits.” She also calls her approach “climate cuisine,” because it aligns local, sustainable, and organic farming, which shrinks agriculture’s climate footprint, with high food quality and healthy diets.
One well-framed municipal purchase order can supply all collective kitchens in a municipality with fresh, local food, incentivizing more local food production and sourcing, guaranteeing a high volume of high-quality food, and enabling high standards to be met across the collective kitchen system. Taken together, the local and regional networks form a new ecosystem delivering local, organic, and seasonal food at scale. In this way, collective kitchens that adopt healthy, sustainable menus become drivers of positive change in the food system.
Spain has the potential capacity to produce up to 80% of its food needs, yet it imports 60% of its food. Shipping food accounts for 25 – 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Local food has a much smaller environmental and climate footprint than imported food, and Spain has favorable conditions for producing it sustainably. But a history of low demand for local food lowers the supply and raises the price, so that it’s considered a luxury item.
In addition, hidden costs and lack of transparency built into food procurement systems tend to put the cost of local food furthermore out of reach, further limiting demand for it. To invest in ramping up sustainable production, local farmers need to know there will be sufficient local demand and market access for their products. Since this is lacking, it keeps local food production well below its potential, making the overall food system less sustainable than it could be.
Limited local food production means vulnerable populations that can’t afford luxury item prices and have limited access to quality food. They also lack education as to how food is connected to their health. It’s estimated that more than 80% of Spain’s adult population will be overweight by 2030, costing the healthcare system €3 billion a year. By 2050, half of Spain’s total population, children included, are expected to be obese unless the trajectory changes.
Nani Moré’s motto is that “there is a difference between filling belies and feeding people.” She has created a healthy and sustainable culinary concept connected to local food producers. - EL PAIS
When making procurement decisions for collective kitchens, municipalities typically prioritize food cost over quality, and there has been little in the regulation of public food procurement to challenge this way of thinking. There are also procedural problems that make food costs opaque and make procurement decisions untransparent. For example, instead of itemizing food prices, decisions are based on a total price that includes transportation and kitchen services, so the price of the food itself is unclear.
Recent consolidation among food suppliers has made the sector less competitive and less accountable. Today 54% of municipal food is bought from just 10 companies. The growing privatization of public services has served to increase the dominance of these companies and made the problem worse.
As a result, municipalities tend to default to buying lower quality, cheaper food from a handful of suppliers, so chefs and kitchens in the public system lack the ingredients to prepare healthy meals and have to make the best of the supplies they’re given.
Most kitchen workers lack the training to use their ingredients optimally. Of the 200,000 collective kitchen workers in Spain, only about 10,000 have undergone specific training in operating catering kitchens. Most of the rest have only basic training in food preparation, so they mechanically prepare food as directed instead of using ingredients creatively or efficiently to increase nutrition and lower costs. Since these workers do little more than assemble meals, they are increasingly getting replaced by food companies that transport meals directly from industrial kitchens.
Together with her organization Menjadors Ecològics (“Ecological Eaters”), Nani Moré has a multi-pronged approach to converting collective kitchens from part of the problem into a solution for making healthy food available at scale: conducting studies, working with food producers, providing training and support to kitchen staff, consulting with local governments, and doing public education.
Nani Moré and Menjadors Ecològics conduct feasibility studies to demonstrate how collective kitchens can adopt healthy and sustainable menus without charging more for meals. They also assess the potential benefits. For example, they recently launched a two-year study in collaboration with the National Pediatric Association to quantify the benefits of healthy foods in municipal nursery schools.
Despite their problems, Nani Moré’s insight is that collective kitchens can become the lynchpin of a new system that delivers local, healthy, nutritious food to those who need it on a large scale. “The dining rooms are not the problem but the solution,” she says. Nani Moré informs us that [hunger] is happening not only in Andalusia, but in most communities [in Spain]. Many educational centers have chosen to keep their dining rooms open throughout the day... “We can feed the population,” Moré says. “Community kitchens are a precious resource that we cannot waste, especially in these hard times for our society.” - EL SALTO
They work to connect local food producers with collective kitchens, creating reliable local demand and “short supply circuits.” That enables local farmers to ramp up sustainable production and assure a sufficient supply of healthy foods at an affordable price.
And they work with community kitchen staff, from the managers who place purchase orders and set the menus, to the kitchen workers who prepare the food, providing training and support to help them plan and execute healthy, sustainable menus without raising meal prices. For catering kitchens under public authority, Nani Moré and colleagues help design menus adapted to the production potential of local food, highlighting local products (crops, fruits, livestock, etc.) along with training and support for implementing them affordably.
Nani Moré’s initiative to change Spain’s food model by linking collective kitchens (e.g., small groups of people who pool resources together to cook for large groups, often in school, university, hospital, army, and group residences) to local organic food productions has been remarkable. - SOZIABLE.ES
A key dimension of this work is consulting with government administrators on incorporating health and sustainability criteria into procurement procedures, analyzing the costs involved, and framing specifications for food ratios, itemized food prices, and kitchen equipment that support healthy and sustainable meals at an accessible price. Nani Moré and colleagues are currently working with 13 local governments and counting.
One tool she uses to accelerate uptake is a 2019 Spanish federal law that requires, among other things, that municipal food procurement decisions be based on a rating system with 51 points for food quality and 49 points for food price. Her team, which includes a pro bono lawyer, monitors, and reports on compliance. That nudges local governments to adjust their procurement practices. In cases of recurrent noncompliance, Nani Moré’s group initiates legal action.
It also works to educate the wider public, for example through local health centers and local programs such as parenting classes, building awareness about the need for change in the food model, connecting consumers to local food production, and helping shift production consumption dynamics toward health and sustainability.
To help scale her approach nationally, Nani Moré formed Chefs 2030, a collaborative network of collective kitchen chefs across Spain. They work to adopt healthy, sustainable menus in their kitchens and change local procurement procedures. Working together they created a free, downloadable, practical guide for kitchens called Menu 2030, which offers detailed examples and tools to help kitchen professionals everywhere make these changes. As Nani Moré says, it’s a deliberate effort to “transform the menu in order to transform the food model.”
To facilitate further scaling, Nani Moré is making her knowledge and experience accessible via a digital platform. It offers a searchable directory of local producers, videos demonstrating recipes for large groups, advice on measuring and managing supplies and cost control, and a planned feature that enables users to audit bidding parties for compliance with healthy and sustainable food requirements. With no additional training or staff time, any collective kitchen can use the platform to make impactful changes in its local food systems.
The daughter of farmers, Nani Moré grew up in Spain’s countryside, helping care for her family’s orchards, help-ing her grandmother in the kitchen, and going to buy food at the local market. Nani Moré came to share her grandmother’s passion for good food, which led her to study catering and hospitality in school.
Upon graduating, she worked in catering restaurants with various specialties, including a stint as a chef traveling with Cirque du Soleil, which introduced her to a variety of different local foods and producers. In 2006, the year she became a mother, she was head chef at a slow food restaurant where she worked long hours, including holidays. She resolved to find a way to balance work and family life.
She took a job at an eldercare facility, where she found herself cooking for 225 residents. She was shocked by the low quality of the ingredients she had to work with, and the menus which were not adapted to residents’ dietary needs. She created new recipes with fresh, seasonal, and local food but was told that these meal plans were over budget and that she had to continue to cook with frozen and processed foodstuffs.
As she sought creative ways to improve the ingredients and the menus at the facility, she discovered the larger problem: the whole catering kitchen system was oriented toward cheap, low-quality food, and the model itself needed to change in order to improve the quality and nutrition of the meals. That experience inspired her vision for collective kitchens in which chefs could work together to transform the food system by using local, sustainable food and creative management. She quit the eldercare facility for a job at a nursery school, which she convinced to let her implement her idea. There she honed her approach, for example learning how to make changes in procurement procedures to support local, healthy, sustainable food.
Her next step was to write and direct the well-known documentary “El Plato o la Vida” (“The Plate or Life”) which exposed the problems with the current food system and got schools interested in changing their approach. That interest in turn allowed her to create Menjadors Ecològics, Spain’s first and still its only organization dedicated to building a healthy, sustainable food system through collective kitchens.