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Cutting public sector food waste through new buying standard

From 2017, central government will commit to buying fresh, locally sourced, seasonal food, in an attempt to reduce waste through food reduction.

Newly appointed environment secretary Elizabeth Truss revealed that this will be done through a new, simplified food and drink buying standard.

The Plan for Public Procurement, which was launched today, is expected to benefit thousands of British farmers, small businesses, rural economies and the British public.

Currently, the public sector in England spends £1.2bn every year on food and drink, according to government figures. However, up to £600m of that is spent on imported produce, £400m of which could be sourced from within the UK.

Defra has stated that the commitment from central government to use this new buying standard means that just over half of the £400m will be up for grabs by British farmers. In addition, the wider public sector, including schools and hospitals, will be encouraged and supported in using the new framework.

Truss said: “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.”

Under the new proposals, public sector buyers will now judge potential suppliers against five key criteria: how food is produced and whether the food was produced locally; the health and nutritional content of food purchased; the resource efficiency of producing the food, such as water and energy use and waste production; how far the food bought meets government’s socio-economic priorities such as involvement of SMEs; and quality of service and value for money.

The ‘Plan for Public Procurement’ has been published following Dr Peter Bonfield’s Review into public produce procurement, which was commissioned by Defra last year. He said: “The appetite for change is there - by creating the right environment and giving organisations the right tools, small businesses will be able to sell nutritious, top quality food to the public sector market. This is the right approach for our health, our environment and also British businesses.”

Prime minister David Cameron also stated that by opening up these contracts, the government can help create more jobs, invest more in farming businesses and make sure people have a healthier lifestyle.

“It’s a triple win – and will mean a brighter future for our country,” he said.

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