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Defra Minister Victoria Prentis on Government buying standards consultation

22nd Mar 2022 - 09:48
defra minister victoria prentis government buying standards
Defra Minister Victoria Prentis has urged caterers throughout the public sector to get involved and provide feedback and ideas in its consultation on Government Buying Standards.

Addressing the Public Sector Catering Expo at the NEC via Zoom on March 15th, she told the audience: “Over the last two years Covid has tested the strength of our food supply system, it was challenging and very difficult.

“But you all rose to the occasion and now this is a re-set moment because we hope we can start to live with Covid and put health and sustainability at the heart of everything we do.

“And we need you to help us by telling us about the way you buy and serve food. This consultation proposes significant changes to public sector procurement, including Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services [GBSF].

“This new work will cover everything from food supply to sustainable catering services, achieving our net zero targets, biodiversity and diet-related ill health.

“This will include mandating that 50% of food budgets must be spent on food that is either local or produced to higher standards.”

And she reminded her audience: “It’s not just how the food is bought, but how it’s cooked and served and presented on menus.

Addressing the continuing delay to the publication of the Government White Paper on the National Food Strategy, she said: “We had been hoping to have that published in last couple of weeks, but what’s been happening in Ukraine threatened to overshadow the issues involved and, to be honest, it would have been a bit tin-eared to have gone ahead when compared to some of the problems they and other countries are facing.

“We’re pushing ahead with the consultation in any event, but if I were you I wouldn’t be held back by the delay to the White Paper. We will crack on with the work.”

She warned that there was a need to be ‘more ambitious in our approach to food waste’, pointing out the need to learn from best practice in the sector.

“At Harper Adams University, for instance, the food waste split is monitored and reported back directly to consumers to show how it is performing against this measure. That sort of feedback loop really helps change practice.

“With new reporting on key metrics it will help us calculate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with public sector catering.

“We must continue to champion best practice, we must continue to engage with it, and we’ll be seeing lots of it at the PSC Awards I’m sure.”

She continued: “These are challenging times, I know, but I am really looking forward to helping you to get your feedback in to help us 

“Your views are welcome because this represents a change in policy and the consultation is an opportunity to say what you think.”

Alluding to the continuing crisis in Ukraine, she warned that food supply chains would inevitably be affected because ‘the war had added to existing inflationary pressures’.

You can listen to her address at the PSC Expo in full here:

Written by
David Foad