“When we think about local food, we probably think about the changes we could make to our weekly shopping.
“Could we buy a bit more local veg or bread for example?
“It is sometimes exciting to think much bigger – how many thousands of pounds of our money are spent on food in local hospitals?
“Lancaster is a city with many big public institutions. We have the hospital, the prison, a couple of universities; a couple of colleges and of course all of the schools. Just imagine what the food bill for these places must add up to – huge.
“All of these places are public services using our public money to provide services. It’s therefore good if we have a say in what food they are buying and where they are buying it from.
“It always seems strange to me that hospitals have so much hi-tech medical equipment, and yet it seems common for our hospitalised friends and families to be fed food that seems unlikely to promote good health. Giving good food to sick people seems like a very basic bit of health care.
“By giving patients and school children better and more local food, we also help the health of our local food economy. If local farmers and food producers had more substantial contracts with the hospital, school meals service etc then our local agriculture would be in a far healthier state than it currently is.
“The Soil Association’s website, http://www.soilassociation.org/Hospitalfood, provides information about hospitals and other institutions that are already providing better food for the same or even lower costs. For example ‘those running hospital trusts with unhealthy food say they cannot afford better quality [food], but the hospitals that are doing a brilliant job are not necessarily those spending the most on their food service. One hospital saved £6 million a year by cooking with fresh, local ingredients’
“The Soil Association also recommend that ‘hospital trusts should improve transparency and patient accountability by publishing information about the quality of food provided in their hospitals. This information should include measures of patient satisfaction, the food budget per patient per day and any independent verification of standards, for example by the Food for Life Catering Mark.’
“So, as well as changing what’s in our own shopping bags, let’s start asking some questions about where our public institutions are buying food from”.