Why the Public Sector Need to Buy into British

We’ve just produced The Healthcare Chefs’ Knowledge, our latest book and have been working closely with senior leaders of the NHS to spread the word about a revolution in hospital catering. However, the work done inside hospitals to improve patient, staff and visitor food is only part of the job. Getting the right ingredients from British farms is another challenge.

As part of our ongoing work we spent the day at Hammonds End Farm in Hertfordshire on Tuesday with farmer Stuart Roberts and a high-level selection of leaders from catering companies, the public sector and large-scale producers learning about how important it is to understand how British farming works.

The aim of the day, organised by Alexia Robinson, Director of Love British Food, was an on-farm working discussion on how public sector providers can work together with farmers and food producers to achieve robust supply chains of nutritious food.

Alexia said

“It is so wonderful to see so many organisations from the Public Sector represented here today and it is so kind of Stuart to host this fabulous meeting of minds.  When I created Love British Food, I would never have dreamt that it would become a Social Enterprise and grow to the extent it has today. There are real opportunities for British farmers to supply hospitals, schools and universities and today is all about helping suppliers to the public sector to facilitate this.”

The Chefs’ Forum has also just become a stakeholder partner of Love British Food, so when we were asked to support with media production on the day, we were delighted to help out.

Love British Food has led the way for a long time in promoting British food and farming to the public sector. I am delighted to host their public sector influencers event on my farm,” said host Stuart Roberts. “I am looking forward to working with them to share the true societal and environment value of buying British; and lead farmers to understand the commercial opportunity of supplying schools, hospitals and other institutions.”

Other aims were to enhance understanding of exactly how farmers can supply the public sector and to promote the public sector as a customer to encourage more farmers to invest in supplying it. It was also a great opportunity to explain to public sector caterers why buying from British farmers will help them meet their sustainability and net zero targets and deliver the nutritious food they need.

Phil Shelley, Chair NHS Food Review and National Lead for Net Zero Food, NHS England, said:

“This is the first time that public sector leaders, providers, suppliers and farmers have gathered together to discuss the supply chain. Momentum is building as we in the public sector want to buy more British food. What better place to do this than on a farm!”

What was clear from the day was how both sides want to meet in the middle and how important it is that they do. Tim Radcliffe, Net Zero Food Programme Manager, NHS England and Director Love British Food, said:

“Our aim is that all NHS catering teams visit a farm, like this one, over the next two years.”

The problem both sides face is how to achieve a working relationship where each side benefits. Farmers need the reassurance that what they grow will sell and caterers, suppliers and the public sector need to recognise that supporting farmers comes at a cost.

Standing in a field with a very strong group of attendees from every sector of the industry together made a strong visual. If it starts a new era of supporting farmers and buying British then it will be the beginning of a real revolution in pubic sector food.

For more information on Love British Food and British Food Fortnight, visit www.lovebritishfood.co.uk

Photography and film by Carlos Farinha.