Sustainable food procurement

Sustainable food procurement

Transforming procurement and revitalising local and sustainable food supply chains

Catering and procurement provide uniquely powerful levers for promoting good food

By transforming catering across a wide range of settings - from nurseries, schools and colleges through hospitals and care homes to workplace canteens and smaller scale catering outlets - it is possible not only to improve the eating habits of many thousands of people but also to create the large-scale demand for healthy, sustainable and local food. This underpins a fundamental shift in the food production and supply system.

Procurement is an ‘enabling’ support service within the public sector. Its strategic focus is the generation of financial benefits, effective supplier management, robust demand challenge, compliance and continuous improvement. Public procurement, has vast potential to enable Fife to create a healthy, sustainable, and thriving local food system.

Food procurement in Scotland is changing. There is pressure to become more agile in the face of national and global change, as well as new commitments to fulfil ambitions to use the public purse to deliver greater public and environmental good.

Public procurement teams in Fife are keen to support change, support locally produced foods and be more involved in the local supply chain. However, there are many factors currently affecting food procurement in Fife:

  • The Good Food Nation (Scotland) Act 2022 enshrines in law the Scottish Government’s commitment to Scotland being a Good Food Nation, where people from every walk of life take pride and pleasure in, and benefit from, the food they produce, buy, cook, serve, and eat each day.
  • The UK Government’s Nutritional Requirements in Schools provides nutritional information on foods that can be supplied in schools.
  • Allergen Information, for example, Natasha’s Law.
  • The requirement to provide Universal Free School Meals for children in Primaries 1-5 from January 2022, with the possibility of expanding this to all Primary School pupils.
  • Free lunches for pre-school age children who have a funded childcare place.
  • Supply chain volatility - shortages on food substitutes (specifically pertaining to nutritional requirements for food supplied in schools) and the availability of fresh produce (which cannot be stockpiled).
  • Climate change.
  • Price increases (estimating potential cost increases of up to 20%) due to the cost-of-living crisis. Increases in consumer prices could pull more people into household food insecurity and increase the demand on public sector food, for example, through greater take-up of free school meals and people becoming unwell or remaining unwell for longer.

Significant amounts are spent on public procurement of food. As an example, Fife Council’s spend via contracts in food procurement is approximately £6 million per year with most of this relating to food purchased for schools and care homes. Currently, approximately £4 million of this is spent with local suppliers, however, most of the goods supplied do not come from local producers. For example, Fife Council has existing food contracts with six local suppliers and receives food from local producers through four existing contracts, but there is always opportunity and potential to achieve more through:

  • Improving collaborative working across organisations and partnerships, by practising a responsive, pro-active and agile approach where possible.
  • Working with suppliers and Fife Council’s Business & Employability Service to support local food producers to be included in the supply chain, highlighting contract opportunities at local and national levels.
  • Enabling procurement contracts to include community benefits and promote sustainability in line with best practice and regulation requirements.
  • Ensuring best value is obtained for the Council – source food products that meet the specification required particularly in schools and care homes for the best price possible.
  • Where possible, practicing a Risk Optimisation approach to procurement activity and commercial risk.
  • Ensuring activity is compliant with applicable procurement legislation and is aligned with the organisation’s strategic direction.
  • Supporting Fife Council’s Catering Team to implement essential food supplies to support their strategies and objectives.
  • Ensuring that all opportunities to achieve savings and efficiencies are considered and pursued.

As major procurers of goods, services and works, public sector organisations have a duty to practice and report on Sustainable Procurement activity. In order to reduce the environmental impacts of procurement activity, Fife Council’s Corporate Procurement Team will utilise the Scottish Government’s ‘Procurement Journey’ guidance in terms of best practice and the Sustainable Procurement Tools. These tools will be used to deliver the procurement actions set out in the Action Plan. Adopting and using these tools and best practice principles across all partners will make a real difference and support efforts to tackle the climate emergency.