Better buying standards needed In the public sector

29 November 2021
We’re joining the call to back British farmers and make sure public sector food meets high standards. Join us and write to your MP.

The Government spends over £2.4 billion on food each year in public sector settings, of which schools make up the biggest proportion. We know that standards in school food are not being met and there are also problems further up the supply chain.

Sadly, the current buying standards are not doing a good enough job. Big loopholes, no legal footing and no effective accountability measures mean that compliance is patchy.  In fact, our friends at Sustain found compliance with the standards is only about 50%. We want to see a set of standards that demand high quality, high welfare food is bought for our schools and hospitals.

We are concerned by the possibility that trade deals could see imported food produced with poor animal welfare and high levels of antibiotics, hormones and pesticides. Several UK supermarkets have said they won’t stock such sub-standard food, so if it’s not good enough for them, it’s certainly not good enough for our schoolchildren! Therefore, we want to see all food meeting British standards as a minimum.

As the Government prepares its white paper response to the National Food Strategy, this provides an opportunity to set legal standards for better food in the public sector. The Strategy recommends procurement standards are redesigned to emphasise the importance of quality over cost. This is already being done in thousands of schools which work with Food for Life, where seasonal, fresh food is served, and bought from local, organic sources.

New standards also provide an opportunity to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, about 35% of which come from the global food system. About one in four of us eat in public sector settings. By introducing more seasonal and organic fruit, vegetables and pulses, and ensuring any meat and dairy comes from local, wildlife-friendly sources, we can make an improvement to our national environmental impact.

79% of the public agree that public institutions should be made to serve high quality and high welfare meat and dairy. We need your help to get this message across to the politicians. It takes just three minutes to write to your MP using this e-action. Once you’ve taken action, please encourage your friends, family and colleagues to do the same, and together we can support a healthier and more sustainable food system.