Argyll and Bute Council is boosting local business and reducing food miles with sustainable school meals, receiving a national award for their work putting local food on school lunch plates.
Argyll and Bute is the second largest local authority by area in Scotland but has the third sparsest population. Around a fifth of the population live on an island and over 45% living in a “remote rural” area. This geographical profile means that Argyll and Bute faces considerable challenges in supplying the population generally, including supplying meals to 82 primary schools across its mainland and island areas.
Despite the challenges, Argyll and Bute Council has held the Soil Association Scotland’s Bronze Food for Life Served Here award since 2013.
TheFood for Life Served Hereaward is a widely respected and independently assessed scheme, supported by the Scottish Government, which helps local authorities to source food from the local area for school meals. It recognises and rewards councils that serve food made from fresh ingredients, free from genetically modified ingredients and undesirable additives, using free-range eggs and high-welfare meat.
When sourcing ingredients, the council have built up and utilise an entire network of local suppliers, meaning school meals are prepared using local produce and products from across the Argyll and Bute region. The development of local supply chains in this way supports employment within the area, and redirects and retains wealth back into the local economy.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the council’s network of local food suppliers enabled them to react much faster and more effectively when communities were most in need. By using local suppliers, the council were able to source and supply fresh food for delivery to vulnerable people without delay, at a time when they needed it most.
The council have actively worked to make public markets more accessible to local suppliers, many of whom are SMEs. Treating all suppliers ‘equally and without discrimination’, they have enabled local producers to participate on an equal footing by considering ‘early market engagement prior to the publication of a contract notice, breaking requirements into smaller lots where appropriate, and using clear and precise language in tender documents.
With a commitment to serve healthy, sustainable and locally sourced meals, and a procurement strategy that matches that commitment, Argyll and Bute Council are using their status as a major anchor institution in the region to improve the prospects for local people and businesses, supporting and growing a business model that is more financially generative for the local economy.