Economy forces drop in sustainable sourcing

The credit crunch has been blamed for a drop in the number of local authorities sourcing sustainable local food.

The number of local authorities adopting sustainable local food procurement policies has fallen by 17% from June 2007 to June 2008.

The figure was revealed in the results of the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) Meat Services' annual Local Education Authority (LEA) Sustainability Survey.

However, 12% of authorities said they were in the process of adopting sustainability policies.

Cost pressures and the need to meet budgets, as school meals uptake has declined, are factors cited as being responsible for this downturn from 80% to 73%.

Another factor responsible for local authorities snubbing sustainable procurement policies and using small local suppliers was the problem of getting consistent supply of all products throughout the entire academic year. "There is a need for small local suppliers to work together to make it logistically easier to supply local authorities," said Tony Goodger, BPEX foodservice manager. In previous years, the greatest difficulty lay in attracting producers, said the report.

Commercial pressures also saw the proportion of LEAs purchasing organic meat dramatically halve, from around a quarter to 12% from 2007 to 2008. Conversely, the proportion of authorities purchasing halal meat increased slightly by 3% to 60% during the same period.

At the same time, the proportion of fresh meat purchased by local authorities has fallen from 25% in 2007 to 18% in 2008. During the same period, authorities using both fresh/chilled and frozen meat grew from 58% in 2007 to 65% in 2008. "It is possible that frozen meat in the format caterers require for school meals is now more easily available via this distribution channel," said Goodger.

The 2008 survey findings also revealed that there has been a change in attitudes towards assurance schemes. In 2007, nearly two-thirds of LEAs claimed to used the Red Tractor quality mark for assurance, while in this year's survey, around 40% said they used it in 2008.

A quarter of all authorities claimed to used EBLEX/BPEX assurance schemes. Some LEAs also stated that they have developed their own assurance criteria or that they relied upon their contract caterer's standards.

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