Why Sustainable Food

Each year the government spends £1 billion on food for the public sector.

Of this amount, approximately £320 million is spent Good Food For Our Money, Sustain 2011 on food in schools. School Food Matters would like to see that money spent on sustainable school food.

Food and Drink Industry’s overall environmental impact accounts for 20-30% Catering for Sustainability: Summary Report. WWF 2016  of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions. So what can we do to reduce this impact?

At SFM we follow Sustain's 7 Principles of Sustainable Food.  We believe that if more schools and caterers adopt these principles we can deliver climate friendly school meals that reduce the negative environmental, social and economic consequences of producing food.

We help schools and local authorities develop catering specifications to redefine their school meal service and prioritise sustainability. 

The myth that sustainable food and the public sector are incompatible due to cost or EU procurement law has been proved untrue. Organisations are now writing sustainability requirements into tenders for food supply and catering services resulting in better food at affordable prices.

Remember - the school meal price in Richmond dropped significantly when we moved from a frozen 'ready-meal' to freshly cooked sustainable food meeting the Food for Life Silver Catering Mark standard!

Climate friendly food can benefit the economy as well as the environment.

Food for Life  Food for Life Partnership FAQs: October 2007 estimates that if 3,600 primary and secondary schools sourced 50% local and 30% organic produce (FFLP Gold Mark) this would create a new market for local and organic produce worth £66 million.

In addition, money spent on locally produced food has been found to generate more than twice as much income for the local economy compared to the same amount spent in a typical supermarket. A New Economic Foundation  survey NEF: Plugging the Leaks: August 2001 found that every £10 spent with a local food initiative is worth £25 for the local area. 

“Climate friendly” school meals go beyond school food standards to ensure meals are freshly prepared from largely unprocessed, seasonal, locally sourced and organic ingredients with meat and dairy served in moderation.

The Food for Life Partnership estimates that 100% take-up of climate friendly meals would cost £734 million pounds in government subsidy plus an additional £262 million for new school kitchens but that’s a fraction of the £10 billion Food for Life Partnership: Six steps to transform school food culture; how a school food culture revolution can beat obesity and climate change annual NHS bill paid out for diet related illnesses in the UK.

Sustain’s 7 Principles of Sustainable Food:

  • Aiming to be waste-free. Reducing food waste (and packaging) saves the energy, effort and natural resources used to produce and dispose of it, as well as money.

  • Eating better, and less meat and dairy produce.  Consuming more vegetables and fruit, grains and pulses, alongside animal products produced to high-welfare and environmental standards in small amounts, helps reduce health risks and greenhouse gases.

  • Buying local, seasonal and environmentally friendly food such as organic from local farms, This benefits wildlife and the countryside, minimises the energy used in food production, transport and storage, and helps protect the local economy.

  • Choosing Fairtrade-certified products. This scheme for food and drinks imported from poorer countries ensures a fair deal for disadvantaged producers.

  • Selecting fish only from sustainable sources, certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Future generations will be able to eat fish and seafood if we act now to protect our rivers and seas and the creatures living there.

  • Getting the balance right. We need to cut down on sugar, salt and fat, and most of us want to avoid questionable ingredients and processes such as genetic modification (GM) and some additives.

  • Growing our own, and buying the rest from a wide range of outlets. Fresh out of the garden or allotment is unbeatable, and a vibrant mix of local markets, small shops and cafes, and other retailers provides choice, variety and good livelihoods.