hospital food

The Cabinet Office has officially confirmed the final details of its Buying Better Food public sector agreement.

The new scheme will focus on an online portal, delivering a centralised option for purchasing food and drink to schools, hospitals and other public sector bodies.

It claimed the new agreement would increase customer choice, improve standards, provide better access to local produce and reduce costs by utilising the collective buying power of public sector customers.

The policy will generate an estimated £100m spend over a four-year period.

This estimate, which the government does not expect to exceed, represents around 5% of the annual £2.1bn public sector food spend.

An early prototype of the scheme was was initially criticised by wholesalers over fears that smaller foodservice providers supplying public institutions could be frozen out.

However, the governenment today revealed that public sector procurement teams would now have the option to add their preferred SME suppliers to the agreement.

In April, The Grocer reported that the Crown Commercial Service had eased tensions with the wholesale industry by clarifying that the scheme would not replace any previous public sector agreement and would only be implemented on a trial basis.

“We are pleased to be working with the Crown Commercial Service on the Buying Better Food agreement, and we welcome their engagement with stakeholders and receptiveness to industry concerns,” said FWD CEO James Bielby.

Alex Burghart, parliamentary secretary for the Cabinet Office, said: “Delivering better value for the taxpayer and driving up food and drink standards are key priorities for government.

“This new system will deliver better quality food to our schoolchildren and care home residents, while creating a level playing field to help small businesses win more contracts from the public sector.”

Defra food minister Mark Spencer said: “The UK produces world-leading quality food and drink, demonstrating excellence in animal welfare and sustainable production standards.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the public sector to lead by example, showcasing our great food and drink and supporting small businesses. We look forward to working with CCS on the agreement.”

Crown Commercial Service CEO Simon Tse said: “We’re delighted to be working alongside Defra to introduce better quality, seasonal and nutritious food into schools, hospitals and prisons. 

“As we continue to level up and grow the economy, this food solution will support public sector bodies in purchasing good-quality food and help local and small businesses compete for public sector contracts for the first time, opening up economic opportunities across the country.”