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Living Lab: Activities

Vidzeme Food Innovation Hackathon 

  • 25-26/11/2022

In partnership with the Vidzeme Planning Region and the Latvian Rural Forum, a hackathon was organized in the pilot territory, the Vidzeme region.

Two of the five guiding concepts reflected in the Hackathon tasks were circular economy and healthy, sustainable food. The Hackathon was attended by four teams, and six experienced mentors in business, economics, and food technology assisted them in achieving the best outcomes possible. Several Vidzeme business owners were looking for smarter ways to handle byproducts and waste materials in food production processes. These business owners had addressed the Hackathon with their concerns. The most important questions were: how to eliminate waste and instead recycle and reuse; how to convert by-products into new products; and how to do it in the most cost-effective way. Food production today must also include changing customer demands, health, sustainability, and environmental friendliness.

The panel chose the team "Zero-Snack," which came up with the idea of inventing a new food product from banana peels, as the Hackathon's winner. The proposed model is perfectly consistent with the goals of the circular economy since it recognizes that what is left over can be used for a range of imaginative and alternative purposes while still considering economic feasibility. The other teams concentrated on product promotion and food innovation themes as well.

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Uzvaretaji_2.JPG Vidzemes_burkanu_hakatons_16.jpeg The Vidzeme Food Innovation Hackathon 


Elaboration of training programme and organization of one-day training sessions

  • 3/03/2023, Cēsis, Cēsis Municipality
  • 14/04/2023, Valmiera, Valmiera Municipality
  • 12/05/2023, Gulbene, Gulbene Municipality

The aim of this activity - increasing the capacity of local municipalities and their education and social care institutions to carry successful green procurements of food and catering services. The training was intended for local government procurement specialists, representatives of local action groups and others. The organizer of the activity: Vidzeme Planning Region.

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The one-day training session, Cēsis

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The one-day training session, Valmiera

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The one-day training session, Gulbene


Organization of individual consultations for municipal procurement specialists (in person and online)

  • 03/03/2023, Cēsis, Cēsis Municipality
  • 14/04/2023, Valmiera, Valmiera Municipality
  • 12/05/2023, Gulbene, Gulbene Municipality

Workshops for children on sustainable and healthy food choices

  • 16/12/2022
  • 27/03/2023
  • 05/04/2023
  • 30/05/2023
  • 19/08/2023
  • 18/10/2023

Latvian Rural Forum has organized workshops for preschool children and primary school children with aim to learn about healthy vegetables grown localy with hands-on activities on how to grow their own vegetables, storing vegetables for the winter and exploring tasty recipes. All workshops were organized together with experts -  farmers, nutrition specialists, cooks. 

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Experience exchange visit to Seinäjoki, Southern Ostrobothnia of Finland 

  • 22/05-24/05/2023

The Latvian delegation to Finland was formed as a result of collaboration across several sectors and industrial actors, as well as the participation of Vidzeme Planning Region and Latvian Rural Forum. The delegation consisted of the Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Latvia, Didzis Šmits, as well as representatives from Latvian state administration institutions, municipalities, non-governmental organizations, and SMEs, and invited Vidzeme region participants, including specialists from Valmiera Municipality and Cēsis Municipality. 

The aim of the visit was to raise an awareness of sustainable Finnish food system principles, how the short supply chains are formed, and how the school meals are organized, as well as to assess the feasibility of taking over Finland’s acquired experience. The visit was possible thanks to CITIES2030 partners in Finland - ProAgria and Into Seinäjoki.

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Visit of the Latvian delegation to Seinäjoki, Finland


Online experience sharing meetings between specialists from Latvia and Finland

  • 03/11/2023
  • 11/11/2023

After the visit to Seinäjoki, two online meetings were organized between Finnish and Latvian experts, where green procurement and sustainability criteria in food and catering service procurement, food education programs were discussed in more detail between specialists in field from both countries. 

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International Forum “Mission: Establishing a Bioregion in the Gauja National Park”

  • 25/10/2023, Sigulda, Culture Centre “Siguldas devons”

Experts from Latvia and abroad gathered to present the bioregion concept and activities in Europe, and to share inspiring examples of forward-thinking regional development. The main accents were on practices in bioregions abroad, organic food production and its market. Participants explored the benefits of sustainable resource management – healthy food in educational institutions, the role of co-operations for the development of organic farming, slow tourism and a zero-waste approach to resource management.

As part of the Forum, the participants signed a memorandum of goodwill on the establishment of the first bioregion in the Baltics in the territory of the Gauja National Park in Cēsis, Sigulda, Valmiera and Saulkrasti municipalities. The Memorandum outlines the key principles to be followed in creating a new economy that is environmentally and climate friendly, resource-efficient, socially inclusive, and prosperous. The Memorandum also sets out the main vectors that need to be developed to bring the bioregion to life.

Vidzeme Planning Region, Cēsis Municipality, Sigulda Municipality, the Association “Greenfest”, Latvian Rural Advisory and Education Centre were the main organizers of the forum. It was organized as Food System Dialogue event. It occurred within the Vidzeme lab.


International Forum “Mission — establishment of Bioregion in Gauja national Park", Sigulda


Discussion “Organic food in school and kindergarten catering. Is organic food always expensive? Experience obtained in European countries”

  • 26/11/2023, Cēsis, Cēsis Municipality

The roundtable discussion was organized as Food System Dialogue event by Vidzeme Planning Region and Latvian Rural Forum. The event’s target audience included representatives from local municipalities, local action groups, educational institutions, and others.

The primary topics of the discussion: how to get organic food on school menus; is organic food always more expensive than non-organic or conventional food; and whether there is a direct relationship between product price and quality. 

The following speakers had been invited to participate in the discussion: Agnese Radžele-Šulce, Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Centre (Latvia), Jostein Hertwig, Global Alliance for Organic Districts (Norway), Klaudio Serafini, Organic Cities Network Europe (Italy), Jan Kohlmüller, BioStadt Bremen (Germany). Zane Siliņa, Latvian Rural Forum, moderated the discussion. 

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The roundtable discussion, Cēsis


Discussion "Experiences and opinions on the school meals and attitudes towards food" and a master class

  • 09/01/2024, restaurant "Pavāru māja", Līgatne, Cēsis Municipality

The event brought together CITIES2030 Latvian partners, including representatives from the Vidzeme Planning Region and the Latvian Rural Forum, as well as stakeholders in the catering process of schools and kindergartens, including the Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Centre, the Association of Caterers of Educational Institutions, the Latvian Caterers Association, catering company representatives, parents, and representatives from non-governmental organizations.

The objective of the restaurant "Pavāru māja" has always been to discover the pure taste of Latvia and to collaborate with local farmers. The restaurant has even been awarded MICHELIN Green Star 2024 for its commitment to sustainable practices. The Chef and owner of the restaurant Ēriks Dreibants shared his thoughts about children's eating habits and meals in schools.

Participants discussed how to change school lunch menus and how to get meals cooked from locally sourced ingredients, including organic products. Local farmer support was highlighted as a crucial component of this activity, as catering to schools provides as a significant outlet for them. The event attendees agreed on the significance of bringing together all stakeholders to effect major changes in the current food system.

Discussants emphasized the strong relationship between children's and their families’ eating habits. They stressed the idea that there is a need for educational work on healthy eating at all levels – children, parents, civil servants, etc. They admitted that knowledge about healthy eating should be integrated into school programs. Opinion leaders outside the family - teachers, peers, digital content creators - can also play an important role in promoting healthy eating.

At the end of the discussion, a master class was held by the Chef Ēriks Dreibants. He shared ideas of what a lunch at school could be. 

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The discussion and the master class, Līgatne


Study visit to Tartu City and County / Green Public Procurement in schools and kindergartens - Tartu experience

  • 08-09/04/2024

Vidzeme municipalities specialists, Vidzeme Planning Region, and Latvian Rural Forum representatives participated in a study tour to Tartu City and County, Estonia, as part of the Cities 2030 Vidzeme Living Lab. The tour aimed to learn about experience in Estonia organizing procurements at educational institutions, including organic food products into their menus, meal planning, and food waste reduction

The study tour was attended by specialists from Cēsis, Gulbene, Limbaži, Saulkrasti, Sigulda, Valka, and Valmiera municipalities, who work daily with catering services in schools and kindergartens. It was valuable for them to listen to Estonians’ experience in this field.

On the first day of the tour, participants visited the Association of Municipalities of Tartu County and the Tarty County Food Network, went to Varik School in Tarty City and tried their lunch, and learned about the experience of organizing green public procurement in Tartu City and County schools and kindergartens. The next day the participants visited Kambja Kindergarten Mesimumm, learned about the catering services offered in Elva municipality's educational institutions. They travelled to Puhja School and spoke with school management representatives regarding collaboration between the kitchen and the catering service provider. 

Estonia places a high value on food quality as well as the establishment and maintenance of healthy eating habits. Tartu City is a forerunner in Estonia when it comes to using organic products in school and kindergarten meals. According to the survey, 23% of all children in Estonia, or 50,081, ate organic food in January 2024. The goal is to reach 50% in Estonia by 2030.

It is crucial to improve organic food consumption in the Vidzeme region. The jointly organized study trip of Vidzeme municipalities specialists to Tartu City and County is a significant step towards achieving this goal. Tartu City and County has successfully approved educational institution kitchens, promoting the use of organic food items in meals. The experience gained in Estonia is useful for taking over in Vidzeme.

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Visit to the Association of Municipalities of Tartu County and to Varik School in Tartu City

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Sirle Sõstra-Oru's (senior specialist in the management service of the Urban Assets Department of the Tartu City Government) presentation on a public procurement aimed at improving the quality of food offered in City of Tartu educational institutions, Elen Peetsmann's (academic researcher from Estonian University of Life Sciences) presentation on organic catering in Estonia, visit to the kindergarten Mesimumm in Kambja

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Meeting with the Mayor of Elva Municipality Priit Värv, visit to Puhja School and school meal





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