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Recipe For Success - Scotland's National Food and Drink Policy

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Sustainable food procurement in the public sector

"Increasingly people want to know where their food comes from, and how it has been produced. They want to know that the issues they care about including fresh and healthy food, employment, as wall as animal welfare and climate change, have been factored in by the public sector when they award food contacts. That is why in Scotland the Food and Drink Policy aims to present a real opportunity for excellent food producers and caterers in the public sector to work collaboratively for everyone's benefit."
Robin Gourlay, East Ayrshire Council

John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary of Finance and Sustainable Growth addresses a conference on Public Procurement.
John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary of Finance and Sustainable Growth addresses a conference on Public Procurement.

Food and drink should not be considered as just another commodity to procure for the public sector. By its very nature it has the potential to influence our diet and therefore our health and our environment as well as contributing to the sustainable economic growth of our nation.

The Scottish Government will lead by example in the public sector, stating that food and drink is different, the values it encompasses are much wider than immediate pound signs and reaffirming that the public sector is open for business. For the food and drink sector, public procurement is worth (according to recent estimates) around £130 million per year.

There are examples throughout Scotland of successes from this approach. We wish to build on these to make our public sector a world-wide exemplar of excellent food and drink procurement practice which supports our sustainable economic growth and contributes to a healthier Scotland.

The Food and Drink Policy will provide the framework for working in partnership across the public sector to drive our ambitions forward.

Richard Lochhead at a farm in Kelso.
Richard Lochhead at a farm in Kelso.

Progress so far

Both the Scottish Government and the wider public sector are increasingly buying more fresh, seasonal, high quality produce, which often comes from local producers and suppliers. We are leading by example in our own Scottish Government catering contact. Placed in full accordance with procurement legislation most of the fresh food is locally sourced. In recent months we have increased our Scottish sourcing of lamb and beef by 80% and 50% respectively. All of our lamb and beef is now sourced from Scotland.

In the Scottish Government's new Catering Framework Agreement we have promoted the use of fresh seasonal produce with an emphasis on environmental sustainability and nutritional standards.

We have also introduced six simple steps to support small and medium sized businesses ( SMEs), including suppliers and producers tendering to the public sector.

We have established a free Public Contracts Scotland on-line portal for buyers and suppliers to access information on public sector contracts. Once registered food and drink companies can receive E-mail alerts for forthcoming public sector food and drink contracts.

Next steps

Create opportunities for the public sector and food producers in Scotland to work together to promote:

  • A holistic approach, taking account of health, economic and environmental benefits when awarding food and catering service contracts.
  • The adoption of sustainable food procurement as a corporate objective for all public sector organisations.
  • Awareness of the origin of food supplied through public sector contracts including how much is produced in Scotland.
  • Consideration of the adoption of National Nutritional Standards for the NHS, local authorities and the Scottish Prison Service and the appropriateness of such standards being enshrined as a statutory responsibility as it is through the Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act, 2007.
  • Development of appropriate knowledge, skills and expertise for producers and suppliers to access and deliver to public sector tenders.

We will deliver the above through:

  • The development and implementation of an action plan that will support SMEs in supplying healthy, sustainable food to the public sector. The action plan will also help the public sector to procure healthy, sustainable food.
  • Working in partnership with COSLA, NHS, local government and community planning partnerships to promote the procurement of healthy, sustainable food.
  • The production of a series of good practice guides and toolkits to provide producers, suppliers, buyers and catering staff with clear practical guidance framework to aid the procurement of healthy, sustainable food in the public sector.
  • The revision and updating of Guidance on "Integrating Sustainable Development into the Public Procurement of Food and Catering Services" to encourage the guide's adoption across the whole of the public sector and thereby support the procurement of healthy, sustainable food.
  • Continued support for 'meet the buyer' events that will strengthen the link between businesses, including small and medium enterprises ( SMEs) and public sector procurers including the addressing of the categories used for food procurement, available budgets, indemnity insurance, menu development, availability of information on source of food procured and options.
  • Support a pilot project to examine the ability of local SMEs to effectively and profitable supply lamb to schools in Argyll.
  • Develop a guide for food and drink SMEs to access the public procurement market that covers aspects from tendering to business structures. We will pilot the guide with a number of producers and producer groups.