Food procurement in Lancaster

Over the past couple of months a group of us have been writing a bronze award application for Sustainable Food City Lancaster. Although a long process, it drew out some great work happening locally…

SFC logo

The Sustainable Food Cities Award is designed to recognise and celebrate the success of those places taking a joined up, holistic approach to food and that are achieving significant positive change on a range of key food health and sustainability issues.’ As a result, the process helped us reflect and draw out the work that is happening in Lancaster around sustainable, healthy food.

When completing the section on public sector procurement of sustainable food– an area which is really tough to get movement on- it was exciting to see the range of work happening in this space.

For example, a cross-sector Food Economy & Local Food Procurement working group has been created that meets every three months and has representatives from Backsbottom Farm, Single Step wholefood cooperative, the Landworkers’ Alliance, Lancaster City Council, Feedback, LESS, Lancaster University and the Lancaster Royal Infirmary. The group has developed a number of short and long term aims that include ‘sustainable and local food procurement by local institutions’.

It has partnered on an N8 project that’s scoping options for keystone institutions in Lancaster (and Leeds) to procure sustainable food. Not only will it interview and build relationships with Lancaster’s hospital, school and university catering departments, but it will interview small scale and large scale local food producers around the options for selling to these institutions. The work has also expanded to include a second strand of paid work around how Brexit may or may not affect current food procurement contracts…

Lancashire County Council’s (LCC) Social Value Policy and Framework references Fairtrade food, working towards a living wage, reducing waste, and sustainable sourcing.

Lancashire County Council’s School and Residential Care Catering group was awarded the Soil Association’s Silver Food for Life Catering Mark in recognition of the fresh and healthy meals it serves in schools and care homes. The award is a commendation for the 70,000 meals served every day in 485 primary and secondary schools and in 23 care homes across the county for pupils, students and adults. When asked for data regarding how many Lancaster District schools this applied to, the Council confirmed a total of 1,128,790 meals served annually in 51 Lancaster primary schools and 117,610 served annually in two Lancaster secondary schools. (This data was based on the 2017-18 academic year.) Regarding care homes this equated to 16836+ meals served in three care homes in Lancaster.

In brief, the Food For Life Silver award recognises schools that serve meals with proper crockery as opposed to plastic ‘flight trays’; the standard requires schools to serve food that is healthy, ethical and uses some local and organic ingredients (a minimum of 5% organic ingredients used in menus), they should have a cooking club where pupils get to cook with and eat produce grown in school at least once a term and the school should be involving parents and the wider community in food education via food-themed events etc.

And LCC is working with 15 schools across Lancashire, 2 of which are in Lancaster, towards the Soil Association Food for Life Award. As part of this scheme schools will need to have a school food policy with a timetable for action around offering more healthy and sustainable food.

The University Hospital Trust of Morecambe Bay’s 2016 Food & Drink Policy also references a Sustainable Food Policy and commits to buy products that: reduce the carbon footprint of the Trust, support local businesses, farmers and producers. Its Sustainable Food Procurement document references Sustain’s Seven Principles of Sustainable Food and the policy’s KPI’s include: ‘List the food from farming systems that minimize harm to the environment, such as certified organic produce; ensure that 80% of meat, dairy products and eggs are produced to high environmental and animal welfare standards…”

Although there remains lots of work to be done, we have a great foundation from which to grow!

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