Paris 2024: A Culinary Pivot with Global Implications

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In the heart of France, the city known for its delectable duck and succulent oysters is gearing up to present a different kind of feast to the world. As a devout meat lover, the sustainability initiative announced by Paris 2024 piqued my interest. How does a nation, proud of its culinary heritage, reconcile the demands of hosting the world’s most significant sporting event with the undeniable urgency of environmental stewardship?

With Paris 2024, we are witnessing a culinary metamorphosis: the Olympics is set to go green on a scale we’ve never seen before. The Organising Committee’s pledge isn’t just any promise. They aim to slash the carbon footprint of the Games by half compared to previous renditions, encapsulating a spirit that urges for more responsible living. Catering might contribute a mere fragment to the Games’ overall emissions, but its sustainable makeover holds symbolic weight in a country that reveres its cuisine.

The menu of change comprises six commitments, emphasizing everything from reducing single-use plastic to sourcing products locally. Imagine the magnitude of these promises – 13 million meals and snacks, each with a reduced carbon footprint and a significant reduction in plastic usage. An impressive 80% of the ingredients will be sourced within France, embodying the very essence of terroir. Not to mention the goal to recover all unconsumed resources, highlighting an unwavering stand against food wastage.

Marie Sallois, the IOC’s Director for Sustainability, captures the essence beautifully, “The Games organizers are laser-focused on showcasing French food that is sourced, produced, and consumed in a responsible way.” This isn’t just about the Olympics. It’s about setting a precedent for future sports events and, in fact, any large-scale gathering worldwide.

The approach is holistic. Two years in the making, the “food vision” of Paris 2024 is a result of extensive consultations spanning 120 organizations. Everyone, from agriculture experts and caterers to NGOs and nutritionists, has been roped in to sculpt this grand culinary vision. And what’s even more intriguing is the involvement of top French chefs like Thierry Marx, Amandine Chaignot, Akrame Benallal, and Alexandre Mazzia. These maestros are being trusted with turning this sustainable vision into a delightful reality.

Then there’s the practical challenge, which as Etienne Thobois, Paris 2024 Chief Executive Officer puts it, is “immense.” Serving 13 million meals across 40 sites within a month is no small feat. Yet, it presents an unrivaled opportunity for France to showcase its prowess – from food production and logistics to waste management.

They’re not only increasing the presence of vegetables and plant-based proteins on plates but also meticulously verifying the origin and quality of every food item. Even for imported goods such as cacao and bananas, they’re upholding the highest environmental standards. And let’s not forget the remarkable strides they’ve taken in reducing single-use plastics; it’s truly a groundbreaking initiative, to say the least.

Feeding our ever-expanding global population is pushing our food systems to their limit. Unsustainable agricultural practices are fast leading to biodiversity loss and soil degradation. And in this challenging context, the stance of Paris 2024 is not just commendable; it’s imperative.

Renowned chef Thierry Marx sums it up, stating that the Games present a “unique opportunity to support the food transition in a positive way.” It’s a gentle reminder that what’s beneficial for our health and planet can also be a treat for our taste buds.

In my opinion, in a world where culinary preferences are increasingly global, the necessity for biodiversity becomes paramount. As I ponder upon this significant shift, I’m reminded of the adaptability of our palates and the undeniable truth: taste, like everything else, can evolve for the greater good. Here’s to a more sustainable, delicious future – one croissant, or should I say plate, at a time. Bon appétit!

Author: Gina Keatley