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Food for Life Scotland supports organic

Food for Life Scotland supports organic

To mark Organic September, Food for Life Scotland will be publishing the stories of some of our organic suppliers over the next month. In this blog we’ve spoken to Locavore to find out what supplying a school meal contract means to an organic business.

To achieve a Food for Life Served Here Silver award, a minimum of 5% of a local authority’s ingredient spend for school meals must be on organic produce, and to achieve Gold, a minimum of 15% of ingredient spend must be on organic and at least 5% on free range pork and poultry.

Organic can be more expensive but it doesn’t have to be. Extra costs can also be balanced through analysing and adapting other aspects of the menu. As catering teams come under pressure because of increasing costs across the board, our Supply Chain Development Manager and Menu and Catering Skills team are on hand to advise.

A shift to organic not only means that young people are eating high quality, nutritious produce that is better for their health, it also means that public procurement is being used as a tool to support producers who use environmentally friendly farming methods and support biodiversity. This should be seen as an investment rather than a cost.

Currently more than one third of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the food system. Organic farming methods, such as restricting the use of manufactured chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and maintaining healthy soils that store around 25% more carbon, are crucial in creating a food system that protects the environment.

Supporting producers of organic products is more important now than ever. The Food for Life Served Here award can help establish a valuable route to market for producers who are working hard to adhere to organic standards and tackle climate change on behalf of us all.

How does this work in practice?

We spoke to Steph Marsden from Locavore CIC about their experiences supplying organic produce to schools across North Ayrshire and East Ayrshire, both Food for Life Served Here Gold award holders.

Locavore’s journey

Locavore Trading, which is part of Locavore Community Interest Company, started supplying schools in North and East Ayrshire in September 2021 with dried and preserved organic foods. Locavore CIC, founded in 2011, was initially a small shop, community kitchen and local food project. Now Locavore has four farms producing organic vegetables, fruit and flowers, a direct veg box scheme, five shops, some with integrated cafes which reduce waste from within Locavore's internal supply chain. Locavore Trading source and distribute wholesale ambient goods to support the other Locavore businesses.

Steph says, “Currently the goods we supply to the schools include the staples which go into everyday recipes, including things like flour, macaroni, pulses and our own branded chopped tomatoes. We deliver these using our own fleet of electric vans. The extra income from these Ayrshire contracts to supply the schools supports Locavore in its mission. One of Locavore's goals is to shorten the supply chain by providing routes to market for products that can be agroecologically farmed and manufactured in Scotland. By supplying local authorities and public sector organisations as well as other shops and businesses with imported goods, we hope to eventually create enough demand for items to make production in Scotland viable. This will diversify the range of local, organic food that we have to offer as a wholesaler and retailer, increasing access to good value sustainable food for people in Scotland”.

Organic public procurement

Steph adds, “Choosing organic means supporting more sustainable land management which tackles the climate and biodiversity emergencies. Supporting local progressive businesses like ours also means keeping more money in the local economy and supporting more local jobs. Our research on our impact on the economy found that for every £1 spent with Locavore it is worth £2.36 overall to Scotland’s economy, or £2.87 to the Scottish and Progressive economy. For comparison, when £1 is spent in a conventional supermarket it is estimated that it is worth £1.10 to the local economy.” Progressive businesses can be described as those who plan to be ecologically sustainable, future respecting and in favour of social enterprise. These kinds of organisations seek to create socio-ecological well-being while maintaining their financial viability.

A route to market

Steph continues, “We were keen to tender for the contracts as soon as we heard about the opportunity. The Food for Life Scotland Supply Chain Development Manager was happy to discuss the challenges of adapting to the public procurement market with us openly and honestly. It was different from what we usually do at Locavore Trading, which is to provide bulk orders for our own shops and other progressive retail businesses throughout the UK. We set up alternative ordering systems and took on a new delivery driver and route to allow us to distribute to the smaller primary schools in North Ayrshire.

“Winning the North and East Ayrshire contracts has helped Locavore in its mission to create a more sustainable food system in Scotland. We were excited last year to share our new Bigger Plan which set out our vision for the next two years. Since that time, there have been some changes to how we move forward to implement this plan, but our vision still remains for Locavore to become a meaningful player in the Scottish food system. Being able to supply schools within Scotland is an important step in our mission to make organic food more accessible throughout the country. In the future, we’d also love the opportunity to supply local schools with fresh organic veg grown on our farms”

If you are a Scottish supplier that would love to see your product on the plates of school children across the country or a local authority that wants to take advantage of the top-quality Scottish food available in your area, contact Lucie Wardle, Supply Chain Development Manager, for an informal chat: LWardle@soilassociation.org