Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Contracts: a fresh look" training day

This was without a doubt one of the most inspirational courses I have ever attended. It was organised by Kena and Pamela for Good Food Training for London.It was fully booked and filled with contracts managers from the public sector. Instead of the dry dull technical details of contract writing this event actually showed in practical ways how the contract could be used to transform public food ensuring it was sustainable, healthy and tasty.

Roberta Sonnino from Cardiff University went through EU legislation to show how it was perfectly possible to stay with EU law and yet create contracts that favoured sustainable food procurement. She used real life examples from East Ayreshire and Rome to illustrate her points. In the past fear of the EU has led many local authorities to be conservative in their contracts. Roberta brought our attention to Article 26 of the Public Sector Directive 2004:

"Contracting authorities may lay down special conditions relating to the performance of a contract. The conditions may in particular concern social and environmental considerations"

This means you can interpret "best value" in much wider terms than just crude economic definitions of "cheapest".

Roberta showed us in some detail how the authorities in Rome had used this directive to create not just fantastic school lunches but also a powerful boost for local food producers and massive environmental benefits. In eat Ayreshire they calculate that their new contract has reduced food miles by a staggering 70% and spent an extra £160,000 in the local economy.

Roy Heath spoke after lunch about The Cornwall Food programme experience. Roy is responsible for the food in hospitals in Cornwall. He spoke with real passion as he outlined his approach to food procurement. His blunt advice to the audience was to get a pair of wellies because, "you cannot procure food from behind a desk". He shared with us powerful stories of local food producers able to grow and expand because of their relationship with the NHS.

There was lots of interest from those who attended and a willingness to share ideas and strategies. Pamela and Kena are going to collect all the relevant presentations and information to mail out to everyone interested and create an email list so we can stay in touch.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the scale of the problems when we look at the terrible mess our food system is in but this training day was incredibily uplifting because it showed how a few individuals can begin to make changes by taking small, achievable steps.

Soon as I get the links to Roy and Roberta's presentations I will post them up.


Joy said...

Thankyou so much for this inspiring report!