NHS feasibility study into sourcing food locally

One of the Westcountry’s largest employers, the Cornwall Healthcare Trust, is hoping to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds buying food from Cornish producers in a bid to boost the local economy and benefit its patients and staff.

The Trust, which has a £1.43 million annual food budget covering 26 hospitals across the county, is carrying out a feasibility study with the help of Objective One funding into the possibility of sourcing food locally.

If successful, the project could generate hundreds of thousands of pounds in business for local food producers and may be used as a model for other healthcare trusts across the UK.

To help it investigate a ‘buy local’ policy, the Trust has been awarded £17,727 of Objective One funding with a further £8,864 from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Once complete, the initial study is likely to be followed by a further bid for grant funding and could result in a self-sustaining food business using locally produced goods. The hope is to create a large network of food producers capable of providing the CHT with the majority of its food stocks.

Mike Pearson, the CHT’s catering adviser, will lead the study. Mike is responsible for NHS catering services across the county and is part of a 40-strong national team - which includes TV food personality Loyd Grossman - set up by the Government to produce a new National Health Service menu for the UK’s hospitals.

He said: “People in Cornwall know what they like to eat and would like to think that much of the food produced has been bought from local suppliers so that in essence the hospitals contribute to the local economy.
“Cornwall produces food of the highest quality and it is important that contracts are developed which ensure that we can buy locally.”

At present 90% of the food produced in Cornwall leaves the county to be processed and packaged elsewhere. But following a change in central Government procurement rules and NHS contracting systems, the CHT wants to see a much larger proportion of that value added in the county, which would mean fresher food and fewer lorry journeys.

David Rodda, senior agricultural co-ordinator for the Objective One Agricultural Development Team, said: “Local sourcing and adding value to Cornish farm output in Cornwall are two key planks of our strategy for agriculture under the Objective One programme because we know the potential is enormous.

“The CHT study will hopefully prove how local sourcing can work even for very large organisations by examining issues like quality control, volume, cost and delivery, and we hope that other organisations will follow suit.”

Cornwall County Council last week announced that it is backing Cornish food suppliers by awarding a major contract to supply school meals to 32 Cornish schools to four local companies. The three-year contract, worth around £350,000 a year, is with:

  • Scorse Foods Ltd of Helston for fresh meat

  • Chaffins Food Service of Redruth for groceries and provisions

  • Doble Quality Foods of St Agnes for frozen foods

  • RT Julian & Son of Newquay for fresh fruit and vegetables

    Local sourcing is seen as a major benefit to the local economy and rural economy in particular. In July, Prince Charles launched his Rural Action campaign to help stop the economic decline in the countryside in the aftermath of the foot and mouth crisis, and urged businesses and public sector organisations to support rural communities by buying their food locally.

    At the launch of Rural Action on July 24 the Prince told his audience: “Local sourcing is something which every person in this room could do something about right now, whether you are a major retailer, a hotel chain or a one-man enterprise. Buy your food locally for your stores, for your restaurant, or for your canteen. The difference that such a change in your company policy could have on your local rural community would be significant and lasting.”

    A recent study from the New Economics Foundation, funded by the Countryside Agency, found that money spent on locally-produced food generated almost twice as much income for the local economy as the same amount spent in a typical supermarket.

    The survey found that every £10 spent with a local food initiative is worth £25 for the local area, compared with just £14 when the same amount is spent in a supermarket.

    The same amount is worth more with local schemes as it stays in the vicinity where its value increases as it is reinvested many times over, the survey said.


    Editors notes:

    The Cornwall Healthcare Trust has produced its own press release, available through Communications Manager Sue Gayton on 01726 291075.

    For details of Cornwall County Council’s school meals local sourcing initiative, contact Mark Nicholson on 01872 274098.

    For details of the New Economics Foundation survey, which was based on a Cornish food box scheme and first published on August 7, contact Caroline Hill on 020 7089 2858, email caroline.hill@neweconomics.org, or visit the website at www.neweconomics.org.

    To read Prince Charles’ full speech from the launch of Rural Action on July 24 visit www.bitc.org.uk/home.html.


    Jason Clark
    Communications Manager
    Objective One Partnership Office
    Castle House
    Pydar Street
    Truro TR1 2UD
    Tel:01872 241379
    Fax:01872 241388