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Impact Report reveals 2.6 billion sustainable meals served

Public sector food doesn’t have to cost the Earth…but it can help save it and our health.

As the COP26 Conference enters its final week Soil Association Food for Life launches the first ever Food For Life Served Here (FFLSH) Impact Report, supported by Civica, revealing the huge impact the independent award scheme has across the UK.

What is Food for Life Served Here?

The Food for Life Served Here Award is an independent endorsement, backed by annual inspections, for food providers who are taking steps to improve the food they serve, source environmentally sustainable and ethical food, make healthy eating easy, and champion local food producers.

In the 14 years since FFLSH has been available, a staggering 2.6 billion meals have been served all meeting set standards on animal welfare, sourcing and traceability. The report illustrates that 407 million meals were served in 2020-21 supporting British farmers and suppliers with £51.9 million pounds being invested in UK farming and local economies.

The education settings, care homes, hospitals, businesses and leisure attractions who are certified can evidence that the food they serve is audited and are serving fresh, local and honest food with the majority being cooked from scratch.

Helen Browning said:

“We have known for a long time the benefits of good food for our most vulnerable, our children and our planet.

“This Impact Report illustrates that the Food For Life Scheme has the potential to support all schools, hospitals and businesses to provide tasty, healthy and nutritious food whilst also protecting our planet. COP26 puts into sharp focus how FFLSH could support both human and planet health.”

So what’s wrong with public sector catering?

Unfortunately, much of the food served in our schools and hospitals is unhealthy, unsustainable, and unappealing. Just 39% of primary school children who have to pay for school meals choose to eat them. In hospitals, 42% of patients rate the food as either satisfactory, poor or very poor.

Over a third of the money hospitals spend on food goes on items that are thrown away uneaten. It could be so different. The public sector is a colossal buyer of food, serving 1.9 billion meals a year – over 5% of the total UK food service turnover, at a cost of £2.4bn.

This money can either be squandered, as is often the case today, or it can be spent in ways which promote human and planetary health.

How can Public Sector catering clean up its act?

It doesn’t have to be this way. As COP26 comes to a close now is the perfect opportunity for the UK government to commit to improving the food served in schools and hospitals. This will require three things:
  1. Government Buying Standards for food and catering must be updated, making them more robust and nature-friendly
  2. Legislation must be introduced, a new ‘Food Bill’, to ensure these standards are mandated across the public sector
  3. Mechanisms must be introduced to ensure that all caterers are compliant
The National Food Strategy

Shouldn’t ALL meals in schools, hospitals, prisons be as sustainable, labelled and well sourced as the meals at COP26? This is exactly what the recent National Food Strategy, authored by Henry Dimblebly, called for.

The strategy highlighted that there is currently no government monitoring of compliance. The Soil Association’s Food for Life Served Here scheme provides the only verification that schools and hospitals are meeting mandatory nutrition standards, and are making efforts to serve British, sustainable and higher welfare ingredients.

Benefits beyond food

The positive ripples the Food for Life Served Here scheme creates echo far further than a school dinner hall, staff canteen or hospital ward. Good food isn't just about waistlines and food miles - it also supports thriving local economies.

Research has shown that every £1 invested in Food for Life brings a social return on investment of £4.41. The FFLSH standards ensure over two million meals a day are prioritising local sourcing, UK produce, animal welfare and nature-friendly organic produce while contributing to us achieving net zero by 2050.

Why the University of Westminster chose Food for Life

The University of Westminster hold a Bronze FFL award and the Green Kitchen Standard, they serve approximately 500 meals a day to students and staff.

Dr Peter Bonfield, Vice-Chancellor of Westminster “The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are a key focus and priority for us at the University of Westminster across our entire portfolio of activities.

“I am so pleased that this includes the excellent endeavours of our catering provision, with our partners Aramark, demonstrated through achieving the Food for Life Served Here Bronze standard and the Green Kitchen Standard Award.

“I am pleased to see our commitment recognised, as sustainability in the food sector is a personal passion of mine as reflected in my sustainable food procurement report with DEFRA and previous work with the Soil Association.”

Read the full report here

Are you a caterer? Speak to Caron today to get your Food For Life journey started.

Email: Clongden@soilassocation.org
Tel: 07500 874048

Are you a School? Speak to Gay today to get your Food For Life journey started.

Email: GDarke@soilassociation.org
Tel: 01179874581

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This Impact Report is kindly funded by our partner CIVICA. Visit their site here