The policy and society feasibility project identifed strategies, policies and practices for localisation of public food procurement.
This was achieved by literature review and additional primary investigation to gather more detailed evidence through interviews and interaction with key stakeholders and academic partners at e.g. workshops. See the workshop report for the ‘Local Food Processing and Supply: Challenges and Opportunities’ workshop, that was held in Birmingham on 19th April 2016.
A final report is available and identified the barriers and potentials for the localisation of public procurement for sustainable local development. The report presents a literature review of both the barriers and potentials of public procurement localisation that supports local production systems and supply chains, together with a more in-depth and focused approach to the issues by focusing upon the county of Oxfordshire undertaking selected interviews with key actors and experts in the field.
An extract from the Executive summary covering the ‘Gaps in evidence’ and ‘key research questions’ is provided:
A range of earlier studies suggested some early ‘success’ in terms of growth in the share of food products that had been sourced locally. Evidence demonstrating that local public procurement regenerates communities remains anecdotal. A robust methodology to assess the relative cost and value of different approaches to food purchasing and food processing which incorporates a comprehensive range of social, economic and environmental impacts remains elusive. Studies to compare the relative impact of procuring more food locally and sustainably have tended to have a narrow focus such as reducing food miles or carbon footprints. There has been a wide range of studies that have considered the various environmental, social and economic benefits that can arise from purchasing local and sustainable food. Typically studies have focussed on a limited range of impacts of a relatively small scale sustainable food procurement initiative that was spatially and organisationally restricted. In some cases, initiatives have turned out to be short lived or reduced in scope. In the absence of such tools and the transparency and measurable criteria they would provide, public sector organisations can expect to achieve only modest steps towards more local or more sustainable food procurement.
In order to make effective demands from food suppliers and catering services public sector institutions need to be able to make clear demands based on what they want to achieve and why. To date what is meant by local food and sustainable food remain at best, fuzzy concepts. In the absence of workable definitions for either local or sustainable then producers and caterers supplying the public sector can be anticipated to continue to make the minimum changes necessary to their purchasing arrangements to secure or retain contracts. Anecdotal evidence suggests that in some cases they have been able to exploit their asymmetric knowledge of both potential food suppliers and public sector meal consumers demands to deliver essentially token changes to their purchasing arrangements in order to achieve poorly defined quotas or targets.
A key outcome of this research was to generate questions for future investigation:
- What impact can a shift to re-localised meal manufacture have upon
- Client satisfaction with quality, freshness and taste?
- Overall levels of food waste?
- Nutritional content?
- Flexibility in meal content – allergen content, halaal, calorie count, etc?
- Food safety?
- Food security?
- What is the relative cost and value of different approaches to food purchasing and food manufacture? (for the purchasing institution, the manufacturing area, the purchasing area, for the end consumer…) and what tools and measurable criteria should be used?
- What unintended consequences could occur with food procurement strategies that favour the procurement of locally manufactured food? (pattern of job loss and gain in food manufacture; changes to less sustainable forms of land use – arable to meat; arable to manufacturing)
- To what extent could support for re-distributed manufacturing of food help to facilitate the success of the healthy eating agenda’s of public sector institutions?
- To what extent is it possible to assess the value of food as a contributor to successful outcomes (such as the impact on attendance and educational attainment in the case of schools; successful treatment outcomes in the case of hospitals) and in turn gauge the contribution of the on-site manufacture of fresh meals to such an outcome?