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A new food culture for public sector catering 16/03/2018, Catering

Around 80 delegates joined fresh-range and representatives of the West of England Food Procurement Group on Thursday 15 March for the Innovations in the Cost of Catering Conference held at City Hall, Bristol.

The conference was opened by Councillor Kye Dudd from Bristol City Council and Councillor Bob Goodman from Bath & North East Somerset Council, who talked about the importance of sustainable food in their respective areas. This was followed by a keynote address from Patrick Holden CBE, CEO of the Sustainable Food Trust.

Patrick said that the strength of attendance at the conference showed how many people wanted to play a part in a radical transition of our food systems. He talked of the True Cost of Food – twice what we pay in the shops – and advised delegates to read this report from the Sustainable Food Trust to find out more. He talked of changing our language to talk about a “food culture”, encompassing all food systems.

Rich Osborn, fresh-range CEO and Mark Leach from Bristol City Council gave presentations on how to improve supply chains to improve health and sustainability, and to reduce carbon emissions. Rich discussed how fresh-range has been trying to break down the barriers to sustainable sourcing, with a Dynamic Purchasing System which combines local with scale.

This new approach to procurement was explored further in presentations by Jo Lewis from the Soil Association, Chair of the Dynamic Food Procurement National Advisory Board, and Tom Powell from Defra, who showed the Balanced Scorecard and said that the Government has set a target of 33% of all Government purchasing to come from SMEs by the end of Parliament.

There was lively and informative debate in two workshops around the hidden costs of catering and carbon emissions, followed by a locally sourced lunch from a number of local producers who were present at the conference. The afternoon saw a fascinating talk and films from BBC Wildlife Producer Tim Martin, with some jaw-dropping graphs showing the decline of some UK wildlife. He described how our shopping habits in the UK are driving animals into extinction, and how he plans to work with fresh-range to create an initiative for Wildlife Friendly Food.

The end of the day looked at how to reduce waste in catering kitchens, with a number of inspiring and innovative ideas and solutions from both the public and private sector. Delegates were encouraged to write down comments or “pledges” from the conference - for changes they could make or issues they could address - a few of which are below:

I’m surprised by how inefficient catering has been for so long!

Source more locally. Reduce waste. Source more sustainably. Increase organic spend.

My Pledge: Stop using single use plastics. Start using more sustainably sourced produce.

A film from the day featuring all the presentations will soon be available – watch this space!