EUTA organised its third Strength2Food Hybrid Forum on Thursday, 14th November 2019. This occurred in Novi Sad, in a school participating in the Serbian school meals pilot scheme.

The theme was “Opportunities for supplying primary schools in Serbia with organic fruits and vegetables”, and for this Hybrid Forum we succeeded in bringing together all the major actors with a role to play in introducing organic fruits and vegetables into school meals. This included school representatives, organic producers, local and national governments, represented by a Ministry of Agriculture senior adviser, assistant Vojvodina provincial secretary for agriculture, deputy head for agriculture of Novi Sad local government, head of education for Novi Sad local government, and head of the school management board for the region. We also had our expert in public sector procurement, the head of Serbia Organica and an expert in organic agriculture from the Open University, Subotica. Dr. Richard Simmons, an expert from Stirling University was also able to participate. Together with an organic grower, these were our ten expert speakers, as well as the host school director.

The Forum attracted 36 participants, coming for the event from many parts of Vojvodina as well as from Belgrade. As for previous HF events, in the first part each expert presented his or her thoughts.

Participants learnt that a major obstacle for organic growers to bid for school food contracts has recently been overcome with the setting up in Subotica of Serbia’s first organic growers cooperative. However, as these organic growers are widely dispersed around Vojvodina, a distribution centre near Novi Sad will be a key resource to facilitate distribution on a regular basis to the Novi Sad schools. This resource will be a key focus of future work with the growers and the Novi Sad government.

The general discussion session after the break was lively, particularly with contributions from the organic growers and host school director, and continued well after the scheduled end time.

Representatives from the local media were present for the HF, with filming and interviews both at the beginning and the end of the event. A TV news crew from RTV Vojvodina attended the event (see here) and a reporter from Dnevnik newspaper published an article (read here). Also, the Vojvodina cluster of organic producers (VOK) published a very detailed report from the HF on their website.