Catering for change: buying food sustainably in the public sector

Guidance for anyone involved in the procurement of food or catering services in the public sector.


This guidance is aimed at anyone who is involved in the procurement of food or catering services in the Scottish public sector. It tells you how you can use procurement to support economic growth, contribute to health improvement and address national and local climate change targets. Although this guide generally refers to the procurement of food, its principles and its content are equally applicable whether you are buying food directly or using a catering provider.

Where the food and drink we buy comes from is of increasing importance to people across Scotland. It is important for our economy - one in every five manufacturing jobs in Scotland is in the food and drink industry. How we buy food and drink can improve the health, education, animal welfare standards and strength of our communities.

We can also protect the environment. The Food Climate Research Network estimates that in 2008, the food industry produced between 20 and 30 per cent of the greenhouse gases 1 that cause global warming.

Procurement legislation means that the public sector must be open, fair and transparent in the way we buy goods and services. This guide, which replaces guidance first published in 2004, shows you how to buy food sustainably, in a manner consistent with procurement legislation.

You can do this, for example, by:

  • specifying fresh and seasonal produce in tender documents
  • removing barriers which stop small businesses bidding for work
  • structuring contracts in a way that attracts a wide range of suppliers
  • working with your suppliers
  • addressing quality and nutrition
  • buying food which will help to meet the Scottish Dietary Goals
  • taking account of how food has been produced and processed
  • thinking about its distribution
  • considering animal welfare

For more information contact:

Scottish Procurement Directorate
Scottish Government
2 nd Floor
Europa Building
450 Argyle St
G2 8LG



Telephone: 0300 244 9802

Scottish Government
Food, Drink and Rural Communities
B1 Spur
Saughton House
Broomhouse Drive
EH11 3XD

Back to top