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Farron challenges DEFRA to set example over food procurement

February 4, 2009 2:25 PM

Following last week's announcement that the NHS intends to tackle greenhouse emissions by reducing the amount of meat and dairy produce served in its hospitals, Tim Farron MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for DEFRA has called on the Government to take the lead in using the public sector to ensure that Britain has a sustainable food market.

The public sector in England spends £2.2 billion annually on buying food for example for government catering, and catering in schools, prisons and hospitals. Currently, very little consideration is given to where this food comes from or its wider social and environmental impacts.

A review of public sector food procurement is currently being given consideration by DEFRA. Mr Farron has urged DEFRA to use the spending power of government to invest in buying food that is local where possible and that is fairly sourced.

Mr Farron said, "Governmental departments have a vital role to play in the battle against climate change, but food accounts for roughly 2% of NHS greenhouse gas emissions compared with travel at 18% and energy at 22%.

"This latest decision by the NHS will do little to help reduce the emissions from individual buildings but will be a significant blow to dairy and livestock farmers.

"Through its role as an employer, a purchaser, and a major owner of land and property, the NHS has the potential to place itself at the heart of a new UK food system for the 21st century.

"Adopting a sustainable food procurement programme for the NHS will help create a regional food chain that can provide patients with healthy, locally sourced food

"The Government should be encouraging organisations within the public sector to source their food from British producers. This would have a far greater impact on the environment by reducing food miles and carbon footprints and would also stimulate local economies during these difficult economic times."