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How the Food for Life Served Here award contributes to international sustainability goals

How the Food for Life Served Here award contributes to Sustainable Development Goals

The international community has recognised that in order to confront climate change, we must also address poverty, inequality, and hunger. Attention has turned to how all sectors in Scotland can work together to tackle the climate emergency.

Scotland signed up to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, alongside international partners. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the blueprint for achieving a more sustainable future for everyone. By signing, Scotland committed to achieving the seventeen SDGs and associated targets by 2030.

The SDGs address interconnected global challenges by setting 169 targets and 231 indicators for countries to adapt and achieve in their national context. The Scottish Government has done this by aligning the SDGs and the National Performance Framework (NPF).

children getting their school mealPicture: FFLSH meals served in Scottish primary schools like this one in Inverclyde are making a difference beyond the dining hall.

The NPF’s 11 National Outcomes, including Health, Education, Economy, and Environment, reflect Scots’ values and aspirations, and describe the kind of Scotland it aims to create. Each National Outcome has a series of targets and indicators to measure progress.

Good food has a crucial role to play

Good food supports good health, a safe climate and our local economy. The Food for Life Served Here (FFLSH) award promotes good food through its standards.

Serving good food in the public sector delivers across multiple national and international policy aims. The FFLSH Bronze, Silver and Gold award standards contribute to 11 SDGs and six NPF National Outcomes set by Scottish Government. They give local authorities a framework for providing school meals that are healthy and freshly prepared, support the local economy and protect the environment.

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But a FFLSH meal has an impact beyond the school dining hall. By achieving FFLSH standards, the Scottish public sector is contributing to national and international goals that are making positive changes in our world.

Investing in the local economy

Scottish local authorities who hold the FFLSH award are required to serve meat that satisfies UK animal welfare standards. This means they’re investing in the local economy by putting more Scottish meat on school meal plates. Some Scottish local authorities now purchase 95 percent of their butcher meat from Scotland.

Campbells Prime Meat SupplyPicture: Linlithgow-based Campbells Prime Meat supply Scottish butcher meat to several FFLSH award holders.

By shifting purchasing patterns from overseas to domestic sources, local authorities support domestic producers and suppliers, creating the high-quality employment SDG 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth and the Economy National Outcome are designed to deliver. Food for Life advocates local authorities serve ‘less but better’ meat, funding higher quality meat by serving less meat on the menu overall. An overall reduction in animal-based protein while ensuring sourcing integrity by being able to trace the products back to a UK farm links with several targets in SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production.

Sourcing sustainable fish

The FFLSH award requires that schools do not serve any fish from the MSC Fish to Avoid list. With 90 percent of global fish stocks either fully or over-exploited, FFLSH menus support marine conservation by sourcing more sustainable fish. The NPF’s Environment National Outcome is ‘We value, enjoy, protect, and enhance our environment’ and specifically includes targets around increasing the sustainability of fish stocks. SDG 14, Life Below Water, also has a target to end overfishing, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices, and to implement science-based management plans. The MSC Fish to Avoid list is updated every six months by their team of scientists and includes extensive information regarding capture method and area to reflect the latest research. By meeting this FFLSH standard, local authorities are not funding fishing practices that harm our oceans and environment.

Serving seasonal produce

The FFLSH award holders’ school menus are seasonal and highlight in season produce. Eating Scottish and British produce in-season helps reduce the carbon footprint of school meals by cutting food miles and avoiding energy-intensive heated glasshouses. FFLSH school menus that feature seasonal dishes can more easily incorporate local, fresh ingredients. This encourages local economic growth which contributes to the NPF’s Economy National Outcome.


By sharing information about seasonality in school meals with pupils, school caterers are part of pupil’s education about how to lead sustainable, healthy lives. Learning about sustainable lifestyles, including the food we eat, is part of SDG 4, Quality Education, SDG 12, Sustainable Consumption and Production, and  SDG 13, Climate Action.

Food production causes a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. Sourcing more environmentally friendly food can help mitigate this. At FFLSH Silver and Gold levels, local authorities are rewarded for sourcing more environmental and ethical food, such as organic. Organic means higher levels of animal welfare, lower levels of pesticides, no manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilisers, and more biodiversity on farms. Achieving FFLSH at Silver and Gold level does more to contribute to the SDGs and the NPF, for example SDG 15, Life on Land, which requires urgent and significant action to stop the loss of biodiversity.

Supporting local businesses

The FFLSH Silver and Gold awards also reward school caterers for sourcing produce locally which helps support local farmers and businesses. Research shows that every £1 invested in Food for Life could deliver a social return on investment of up to £4.41. Local sourcing also helps reduce food miles and encourages seasonality which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions. This supports SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production, through promotion of sustainable procurement, and SDG 1, No Poverty, by building resilience to economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters, such as the coronavirus pandemic.

By serving Food for Life Served Here awarded school meals, local authorities are making a huge impact beyond the dining hall by helping Scotland to achieve international and national policy aims that support our health, economy and environment.

Find out more about Food for Life Scotland's impact