Central government will commit to buying locally-sourced food through a new food and drink buying standard, from 2017, which will aim to cut waste, according to newly-appointed environment secretary Liz Truss.
In a joint statement with Truss, prime minister David Cameron said that, from 2017, all of central government will commit to buying fresh, locally-sourced, seasonal food, so that “all food that can be bought locally will be bought locally”.
Public sector buyers will judge potential suppliers against five key criteria, including the resource efficiency of producing the food, such as water and energy use and waste production.
This will be done through a new, simplified food and drink buying standard called “The Plan for Public Procurement”. According to Defra, it will benefit thousands of British farmers, small businesses, rural economies and the British public.
In her first policy announcement since being appointed environment secretary, Truss said: “This move will mean food served in canteens across the public sector can be more local, seasonal and tastier”.
“It will help drive growth in Britain’s first class food and drink industry and benefit the environment through reduced waste, higher take-up of meals and less unappetising food left on plates.
“This is a huge boost to British farmers and producers and for students, patients and employees who want to enjoy fantastic food.”
The public sector in England spends £1.2billion every year on food and drink. Up to £600million of that is spent on imported produce, £400million of which could be sourced from within the UK.
According to Defra, the commitment from central government to use this new buying standard means just over half of £400million of potential new business for the British food industry will be up for grabs by British farmers.
In addition, the wider public sector will be encouraged and supported in using the new framework with the expectation that all schools and hospitals will, in future, serve more locally-reared meats and freshly-picked fruit and vegetables.
Cameron said: “Our long-term economic plan is all about backing the do-ers and the hard-workers – and no one does more or works as hard in Britain today than our farmers.
“By opening up these contracts, we can help them create more jobs, invest in their businesses and make sure people in our country have a healthier lifestyle.
“It’s a triple win – and will mean a brighter future for our country.”