In the past few months COVID-19 has sent shockwaves across the food procurement, supply and catering industries.
Now more than ever, routes to shorter, lighter supply chains are needed to safeguard food systems in the face of future health and climate crises.
In June, the Soil Association released our Shortening Supply Chains: Roads to Regional Resilience report. Following its release, we surveyed school caterers on the impact of COVID-19 on their food procurement. We asked them to reflect on what has practically changed in the current situation and also how their considerations and planning have changed as they look towards the future.
When asked what they saw as the biggest impacts of short food supply chains and dynamic procurement:
- Over half of respondents said it was to make food more environmentally friendly
- Just under half highlighted making food procurement more resilient
Caterers who are re-thinking their choice of supplier going forward are focusing on resilience and buying local as their most significant considerations.
One caterer said: “The focus will be on sustainability but with a shift on protecting communities, supporting people, championing British produce, reducing food waste”
Flying the flag for local, sustainable produce
Leicester Trading Services (LTS), a local authority caterer, serve over 33,000 school meals to more than 230 schools across the Midlands. They have recently achieved the prestigious Gold Food for Life Award*.
As part of the Gold standard, LTS meet local sourcing requirements. Despite their recent success, they are not sitting back - they are keen to shorten supply chains further and source more regional food.
Working in partnership with a procurement body, they have increased organic and ethical sourcing by switching suppliers and changing their sourcing policies. Leicestershire County Council have recently declared a state of climate emergency and joined the Sustainable Food Cities Network.
However, they have encountered several challenges, including apprehension from producers about procurement legislation and documentation for the required volumes of supply. Further coordination and facilitation is needed to support both producers and procurers to overcome the barriers that restrict smaller suppliers access to supply contracts.
The health impacts of local
It’s not just the environment and food security that benefit from shorter supply chains – our health is also significantly improved.
Sophia Koniarska, Associate Director at Food for Life says:
“The healthiest diets are rich in fresh foods, including lots of veg, and eating in season means you eat food at its best. Local and resilient supply chains can help people to reconnect with where their food comes from - and it can be more affordable too.”
Changing your supply chains?
* The Gold Served Here Standards reward spend on ethical, environmentally friendly and local ingredients, and recognises steps to offer healthier menus.
At least 15% of ingredients are organic, significant steps are taken to encourage healthy eating and caterers are recognised for using ingredients produced locally or from the UK.