Over 100 buyers, catering managers, cooks, producers and suppliers from across the West of England public and private sectors have come together to discuss opportunities for healthy, sustainable and local food procurement.

On Wednesday 1 February representatives from schools, hospitals, leisure centres, visitor attractions, workplaces and universities took part in a conference, with each delegate making pledges to drive interventions for health and sustainability in their organisation.

The event was jointly hosted by Bath & North East Somerset Council and Bristol City Council and held at Farrington’s Farm in Farrington Gurney.

The conference featured an impressive line-up of speakers including representatives from the Governmental Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Public Health England, Cardiff University, the Soil Association and the Jamie Oliver Foundation.

A packed audience also heard case studies from local organisations who are championing healthy and sustainable food procurement including North Bristol Trust, B&NES Council, the University of the West of England and Bath Spa University.

Councillor Martin Veal, (Conservative, Bathavon North) Bath and North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services said: “Over a third of all meals eaten outside of the home are in public sector institutions such as schools and hospitals. By supporting these settings to provide healthy, sustainable and more locally sourced food, we can deliver significant benefits for the health and wellbeing of our communities, the local food and farming economy and the environment.

Bath & North East Somerset Council is working to improve the food provided in our own organisation. Our catering service has achieved the Soil Association’s Silver Food for Life Catering Mark for primary school meals – providing assurance that meals are prepared from healthy, local, organic and ethically-sourced ingredients and our new school meals contract makes it easier for small, local food and farming businesses to supply school meals.

A dozen local producers and suppliers attended the conference and made a pitch to buyers. Andy Jeffery from Farrington’s Farm said: “In all the years I’ve been farming here in Somerset, I’ve never witnessed a more inspiring declaration of intent from private and public sector alike to source locally, healthily and sustainably.

Councillor Fi Hance, Bristol Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “By working together the four West of England Local Authorities have a great opportunity to help connect regional businesses with local food suppliers and producers. This is a really exciting agenda that should see improved sustainability and fewer food miles associated with the local authorities’ food provision. We want to see organisations across the whole region being able to easily source sustainable, healthy food which is good value for money. The conference was a great opportunity to see how many organisations had made practical changes to their food procurement bringing huge benefits to their service users, the local economy and the environment and will help us to work more collaboratively on this agenda.”

Professor Kevin Morgan (Dean of Engagement, Cardiff University) said: “The formation of the West of England Food Procurement Group is a very positive step in the right direction because it shows that local authorities are taking the lead in demonstrating how the public sector can deploy its collective power of purchase to promote healthier and more sustainable food from around the region that is good for people and planet alike.

For more information about the West of England Food Procurement Group and conference please visit: www.bathnes.gov.uk/sustainablefoodprocurement