The project formerly known as the London Hospital Food Project is the third Sustain project to adopt a new name this quarter. The working party met in August and October and discussed possible expansion of the project into training, and a review of current policy developments.
Expanding the network
Project officers Emma and Mat are have already recruited the target number of institutions to the project – 20 hospitals, five schools and five care homes. However, public sector caterers continue to express an interest in participating, and as many as possible will be accommodated. Geographical clusters, particularly around Portsmouth and London, are beginning to develop which will help us to develop more efficient delivery routes for the suppliers.
It has been helpful to be able to build on the Defra funded project with the National Association of Care Caterers. Kate Bowie (now Eat Somerset project officer) worked with the Association to develop the briefing paper, Sustainable Food in Care Catering, which is now available on the Sustain website. We also have good links with councils changing their school meals contracts.
Promoting the project
The project officers have given presentations at seminars across the country and also took part in events for British Food Fortnight. With a group of Portsmouth hospitals, and 'Hampshire Fare', we are arranging a study day for hospital catering staff and producers. We are also gathering a range of catering managers and suppliers in London to discuss the thorny issue of product pricing.
The project is working closely with the staff of the Soil Association's 'GEOrgE' (Growing England's Organic Enterprise) project to develop the capacity of producers from across the South East. We are also acting as one of the lead projects for the South East food group partnership, working closely with the new public procurement lead for the organisation.
The latest edition of the public procurement round-up, produced by Mat, was circulated to over 600 subscribers in September and the next one is due in October.
Organic Action Plan
At a June meeting, there was unanimous agreement that the Organic Action Plan group still had a vital role to play. Members considered that it should continue for the foreseeable future, but in an advisory capacity and taking a broad strategic view. Emma attended the latest meeting where it was agreed that one of six priority areas would be public procurement, and Emma will be writing this scoping paper. Other priorities include providing information to the public, and to producers.
Sustain was not able to attend the stakeholder meeting, organised by the Advisory Committee on Organic Standards, to discuss the UK position on the EU regulation on the prohibition on the use of genetic modification (GM) in organic farming.
Due to the success of the pilot London hospital food project, Defra's Rural Enterprise scheme is providing a two-year grant that will provide the majority of funds to enable the project to expand to encompass around twenty hospitals from around the South East of England. More recently, the remainder of the project funds has been awarded by the Bridge House Trust.
The updated version of the report on the pilot phase, Getting more Sustainable Food into London\'s Hospitals: Can it be Done and is it Worth it? will be available later in the year. It will include the completed independent evaluations of the health and economic impact of the project, as well as an extended section on policy recommendations.
In February, Emma was awarded a Nuffield Farming Scholarship. Over the next two years she will be studying the possibility of growing exotic vegetables in the UK, and how this could provide opportunities for integrating ethnic minority communities into the agricultural sector in the UK. Emma would welcome any advice or information on this policy area.