How a Transformation towards Sustainable Community Catering Can Succeed

Community catering or to use another common term especially in the American literature institutional foodservice plays a central role in changing our food system towards sustainability. Community catering establishments can bring about changes in this context at various levels. Hence, in the context of menu planning, they have a direct influence on the level of meat consumption. Indirectly, however, they can also support changes in eating habits by offering the guest an equally attractive alternative, thus giving him or her a sense of how tasty a low-meat cuisine can be. On the basis of this experience, the consumer may possibly change in turn his or her own purchasing behavior and menu planning at home. With the increasing importance of catering for day-care centers and schools, community catering also has a considerable influence on the nutritional status as well as on the development of people’s individual diet and the later eating habits of young people. By understanding socio-technical systems as embedded in ecological systems this paper takes a systemic view on innovations in transformation domains as the objects of desire for governance towards sustainability. The framework developed in the context of the BMBF-funded research project “Governance model for socio-ecological transformation processes in practice: development and testing in three areas of application” known by its acronym TRAFO 3.0 was applied to examine innovative approaches and actors in community catering and their contributions to more sustainable food systems. A number of studies show that a very large environmental relief potential can be achieved by reducing the quantity of meat and other animal products offered. However, the concrete implementation of this goal is associated with a multitude of challenges, since meat-containing meals are an important part of German food culture. How the transformation towards meals with fewer animal products in German community catering can succeed is an important question in the context of the transformation to sustainable food systems. To answer this question, we analyzed the status quo of the socio-technical system of German community catering using a developed governance model. One of the central results was that community catering stakeholders who have successfully reduced their offer of animal products died fundamental changes in meal planning. Cooks had to “reinvent” meals completely to be successful.