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Better Public Procurement

Better Public Procurement

Now that the new government is in power, we’re asking them to commit to our eight priorities for the future of food and farming in the UK. As one of those priorities, we are calling on the Government to widen access to healthier, higher welfare, local and sustainable food; and to support and strengthen markets for UK farmers and growers in a way that enables and encourages innovation—to the benefit of food producers and consumers alike.

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The Importance of Public Procurement

The public sector spends around £2.4 billion per year procuring food and catering services—accounting for 5.5% of total UK food sector sales. The food and farming sector employs around 3 million people, making it ‘the UK’s largest manufacturing sector’. An effective and forward-thinking public procurement policy can:

  • Boost the local economy
  • Supply quality food to customers
  • Support farmers and growers, and reward them for operating to high production and animal welfare standards
  • Enable and encourage innovation
  • Help tackle health issues by improving access to healthy food
  • Educate school children on where their food comes from, and teach them to cook healthy meals

To that end, we’re asking the new Government to make quality food the focus of their public procurement policy.

  1. The Government should implement a procurement policy that requires use of Defra’s ‘Balanced Scorecard’ across the sector. Defra’s Balanced Scorecard currently is only used in central government; we would like to see its use extended across the entire public sector.

  2. Public procurement decisions should place a weighting of at least 60% on food quality, with price not to exceed 40% weighting. Maintaining this cost-quality ratio will support caterers to maintain high-quality standards.

  3. Caterers’ use of the Balanced Scorecard should be independently verified through an inspection-based scheme like the Food for Life Catering Mark. This would increase uptake of assurance schemes like Red Tractor, LEAF, Marine Stewardship Council and organic, incentivising caterers to progress towards more sustainable menus—to the benefit of British farmers and food businesses, as well as consumers.

a child enjoying a tomato

About the Food for Life Catering Mark

The Catering Mark ensures meals are made up of seasonal, traceable, healthier, sustainable and fresh ingredients. Over 1.6 million Catering Mark accredited meals are already served in the UK every weekday, including the meals in over 50% of English primary schools, and in the UK’s largest nursery chain.

And the Food for Life Catering Mark award is based on physical, in-person inspections; so consumers know that a caterer accredited by the Catering Mark is serving healthy, high-quality food.

The Balanced Scorecard (part of the Government's own Plan for Procurement currently in mandatory use in central government), recognises the Food for Life Catering Mark as a 'well-established' best practice tool.

The Catering Mark benefits consumers, caterers, and communities.

According to the New Economics Foundation’s analysis of the Food For Life schools programme, every £1 spent on local, seasonal produce created more than a £3 return in social, economic, and environmental value—and that’s before even taking the health benefits into account.

And demanding healthy, local, sustainable food doesn’t require increasing costs for caterers: Of public sector caterers that have been awarded the Food for Life Catering Mark, 71% of caterers reported that they achieved it without added costs—and 29% reported saving on costs.


How You Can Help

Check whether your local school, hospital and other publicly-catered venues make use of the Balanced Scorecard and if not encourage them to do so. 

You can help by asking your local MP what they are doing to ensure soil protection is a top priority for food and farming policy - and sending them a copy of this article. We’d love to hear what they say, so please do drop us an email to let us know.

You can also join us in making good food the easy choice for everyone by becoming a member today.

If you’d like to know more of our general election priorities, or you would like to stay up to date with other food and farming policy, you can visit our Food and Farming Policy Hub.