Headlines: October 27th, 2003

Details have been announced of a conference next month to encourage public sector bodies to do more to ensure they buy sustainable food. Key speakers will include Jonathon Porritt, who chairs the UK Sustainable Development Commission and Sir Don Curry, chairman of the Sustainable Food and Farming Strategy Implementation Group.The conference, which will take place in London on November 26th, is part of a government-wide review of the way public authorities and agencies, including schools, hospitals, prisons, government departments and local councils, buy food and catering services. Together they spend more than one and a half billion pounds a year on food.

The review, set up by Food and Farming Minister Lord Whitty in August, is also looking into whether small producers are given a fair chance to compete for public sector contracts and whether organic food is being fully promoted. It is seeking to increase the demand for food with lower environmental impacts and step up demand for healthier food.

The twin aims of the conference are to provide information to build on existing best practice as well as stimulating new projects and to discuss issues and exchange ideas about how to implement the government’s strategy. The keynote speakers will also include Lord Whitty and Duncan Eaton, chief executive of the NHS purchasing and supply agency.

In addition there will be workshops looking at seven areas including, specifying quality, supply chain partnerships and raising awareness. The latter will be led by Kay Knight from South Gloucestershire council and Matthew Bell from Nottinghamshire County Council. Another workshop will look specifically at a sustainable procurement strategy for local government. Contributors to that will be Gordon Murray of the Improvement and Development Agency, Peter Melchett from the Countryside Agency and Jeanette Orrey who works in a Church school in Nottinghamshire.

People wishing to attend the conference can book online at www.sustaianblefoodprocurement.org   or by calling Freephone 0800 542 9590.