Public procurement of food for hospitals, schools, military, government buildings and prisons should reflect dietary guidelines and deliver in line with strategic targets set through the integrated food strategy.
Impact on climate change, biodiversity, obesity, and nutrition-based noncommunicable diseases (such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease) should shape public food procurement decisions. This would have a number of short and long term benefits, including higher nutritional standards for meals served through public bodies, increased societal awareness about what a healthy sustainable diet looks like, improved knowledge of the links between food and health, and reduced healthcare costs.
Due to the size of public sector procurement, changes in requirements are likely to have a wider impact within the food supply chain with positive knock-on impacts on production, including creating a market for locally produced plant foods.
Improving public procurement would include:
- Publishing Government Buying Standards that reflect healthy and sustainable food-based dietary guidelines and integrate with the national food and farming strategy.
- Setting up mandatory reporting mechanisms to ensure compliance and adequate implementation of guidelines in line with targets.
- Local authorities should improve catering they run, e.g. for schools, staff cafeterias and leisure centres, designing and implementing healthier catering schemes to encourage outlets to switch to healthier ingredients, products, menus and cooking practices.
- Local authorities should support the public and voluntary sectors to improve their food offer. They can achieve this by working towards delivering on the Government Buying Standards or running accreditation programmes such as Food for Life Catering Mark or Sustainable Restaurant Association and build these standards into future contracts.
- Ensure plant-rich options are the majority of options across public institutions. Encourage mechanisms to achieve this, such as positive marketing of plant-rich dishes; choice of recipes that are inherently low in meat and dairy and meat-free days.
- Influencing industry buying standards by offering leadership through public procurement.