Our Better By Half roadmap calls for sustainable food to be normalised in schools, hospitals, care homes and other public institutions, but convincing councils to improve procurement and shift to sustainable menus, requires effective lobbying and co-ordinated local action to put pressure on policymakers and procurement managers to make the necessary changes.
The new guide ‘Campaigner guide: Local authorities, food and climate’ by Eating Better, FOUR PAWS UK, Friends of the Earth, Soil Association and Sustain is designed to help parents, PTA members, school governors, and local campaign groups call for better public sector food locally, especially school meals. A series of grants will further support local groups to advocate for more healthy and sustainable public food, farming and investment in their area.
Simon Billing, executive director at Eating Better said:
“What we feed our children as they learn, or hospital patients while they recover, really matters. Currently our food system is working against us, not for us and policymakers have their heads in the sand. This new guide will empower local campaigners to demand change to create a new, healthy and fair food system: more plants on menus, more home-grown, seasonal food and “less and better” meat and dairy from the best of British farms.”
Many councils have declared a climate and nature emergency, but few have targets to reduce emissions from food. The public sector serves around one billion school meals every year, so harnessing its purchasing power could go a long way to making sustainable food part of the solution to the challenges we face from climate change and nature loss.
That means more locally grown and seasonal fruit and veg and “less and better” meat and dairy from farms working to protect the natural environment and where animal welfare is prioritised. With our current food system responsible for over a third of global emissions and a significant driver of wildlife decline in the UK, switching to sustainable menus in the public sector would benefit the planet and our own health.
Clare Oxborrow, Senior Sustainability Analyst from Friends of the Earth said:
“Many local authorities have declared a climate and nature emergency, but few are taking bold action on one of the biggest sources of emissions – the food served in schools, hospitals and care homes. We hope this guide will help campaigners plug this gap and work with their local councils to serve up meals that are better for the planet, and our children’s health. Over 1bn meals are served in schools alone every year – so there’s a huge opportunity to have a positive impact on the environment.”
Ruth Westcott, climate change coordinator at Sustain said:
“Healthy and sustainable food is not a luxury, but an opportunity to support our farming communities and local businesses, tackle the climate and nature emergency and make citizens healthier. Local groups know what will make a difference in their area and we encourage people with exciting ideas about a better food system to apply for a grant”
Emily Wilson, Head of Campaigns at FOUR PAWS UK said:
"Public money should not be funding cruel farming practices such as cage-keeping and beak-trimming. With this new guide and grant offering, we want to equip local authorities with the tools to reduce meat and animal product intake, and incorporate more plant-based alternatives along with higher animal welfare standards. Being conscious of what we are eating means we can exclude the worst animal cruelty in the food served at public institutions. These actions can also help inspire younger generations to engage with where their food has come from.”
The grants of up to £5,000 are open to any local food partnership, local authority, or community group based in the UK to campaign for meaningful change to the food system locally, through better public sector meals, growing more food sustainably locally, tackling the causes of food waste, and addressing the marketing and pricing of climate-friendly food.
More information and guidance for applicants is available on Sustain’s website. The deadline for applications is 15th April 2022.