Dynamic Purchasing UK Food a social enterprise, have been working with the South West Food Hun to develop a digital platform with the potential to enable Local Authorities and other anchor institutions across the UK to form a food buying organisation that can deliver significant social value, with immediate, positive economic and environmental outcomes.
The idea is to facilitate shorter, more transparent food supply chains so that buyers in the public sector or in anchor institutions in their region can have better access to locally and sustainably produced food, and smaller producers can access more stable markets with relative ease. Food spend is a big slice of the economy and has the potential for massive regenerative regional economic impact. The public sector purchases 5.5% of all food in the UK, so this framework can contribute significantly towards local authority net zero ambitions.
The pilot has demonstrated that it can be done, at equal or less cost than existing procurement systems, and with significant benefits to users. For example, in the South West prisons are using it to not only procure food for their own catering operations but also to build sustainable healthy food in to their education offer, with the ability to choose ingredients and create products with a clear provenance to sell at local farmers’ markets.
There are some crucial key players in this landscape (including Local Enterprise Partnerships, the NHS and the farming community), and development work will be needed to ensure that we are ready to go in County Durham if a roll-out is included in the Government White Paper on the National Food Strategy later in 2022.