The ingredients in many thousands of meals served across the South West in places like school kitchens could be sourced from local businesses thanks to a major high-tech procurement platform being developed by the Government’s Crown Commercial Service.
The South West Food Hub is a Community Interest Company (CIC) being trialled in the region early next year. It is hoped that the initiative will make it easier for chefs and catering and procurement managers in places like schools, colleges, hospitals and prisons, military bases to purchase fresh supplies sourced across counties like Cornwall or Devon, Somerset or Dorset.
“It will allow the region’s food network to buy local and establish sustainable, shorter supply chains across the South West’s food sector, focusing primarily on public procurement,” said Ellen Bright, project coordinator for the South West Food Hub.
The launch comes in the wake of a specially commissioned report which found that more than a third of South West food and drink businesses have experienced a 70% drop in revenue caused by the lockdown.
The hub initiative is supported by local organisations including the Heart of the South West LEP, the University of Exeter, Exeter City Futures, POM Support and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).
“The pilot, a new dynamic online purchasing platform, will open up public sector food procurement to local producers and suppliers,” explained Greg Parsons, co-founder of the South West Food Hub.
“The hub will work with anchor institutions such as schools and hospitals to mobilise the pilot, whilst supporting food and drink SMEs to meet entry criteria and prepare to supply through the new platform,” added Mr Parsons, who has experience in large scale procurement though his company POM Support.
Commenting on the initiative, Alex Stevens, regional policy manager at the NFU said: “This is a region united by food – and a strong food and drink sector will be crucial to getting the economy back on track when life returns to normality. This initiative seeks to link the region’s food producers and farmers with outlets for their fantastic produce.”