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Date: Thursday 1 May 2008

Source school (and hospital) dinners locally, like East Ayrshire - UNISON

The pioneering fresh, local and healthy school meals enjoyed by East Ayrshire children should be standard in all Scotland's schools, hospitals and prisons, Scottish education union, UNISON said today.

UNISON launched its new Food for Good Charter at one of the East Ayrshire schools that helped show how healthy, sustainable meals can be provided at a reasonable cost.

The union wants to see Food for Good introduced across the public sector to help change the diet and health of the nation. It has recommended the changes in a response to the Scottish Government's consultation on establishing a national food policy.

UNISON's Dave Watson, School head teacher, Christine MacLean, catering manager, Moira Barrowman and school children were at at Gargieston Primary School in Kilmarnock on Wednesday 30 April 2008 for the launch.

Speaking at Gargieston Primary School in Kilmarnock, Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser, will say: "Food for Good would improve the health of children in schools and nurseries and of hospital patients and prisoners as well as being good for the environment, for local suppliers and those in the developing world.

"East Ayrshire has delivered a first class example of how public sector catering can rise to the challenge and deliver quality, healthy food. Food that is fresh and prepared and sourced locally where possible. And provided at a cost within the standard range local authorities already pay. The Food for Good Charter addresses a range of issues including sustainability, health, fair trade, proper pay and employment conditions and animal welfare".

Lilian Macer, Chair of UNISON's Health Group Executive and herself a hospital chef in Lanarkshire said; "We believe that sustainability should be at the heart of food policy. The aim for all public sector catering should be to give a daily option of an organic/ethically produced main meal. Previous policies such as Compulsory Competitive Tendering, PFI, and outsourcing led to mass-produced cook-chill and cook-freeze products being transported hundreds of miles in order to cut costs at the expense of a quality service."

Robin Gourlay, Head of Facilities Management at East Ayrshire Council, instigated the award-winning initiative at primary schools under the Hungry for Success programme and later adopted the Soil Association's Food for Life scheme.

He said: "We must be able to teach children to be knowledgeable consumers of tomorrow who understand the impact of food on their health and on the environment. Our catering staff who provide school food understand the vital role they have within the context of an educational environment in achieving that goal. UNISON's Food for Good campaign also recognises the bigger picture and acknowledges that the public sector generally, and that local authorities who have clear community regeneration and well-being responsibilities, can become leading actors."


Notes to editors:

1. A Scottish Executive evaluation in 2006 of the East Ayrshire initiative to introduce local organic food to schools said the "ingredient and administration costs have gone up modestly, though they remain within the range that many Local Authorities are already paying. This allays to some extent the fear that increased costs would mean local supply is not viable." Full evaluation at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/138163/0034389.pdf

2. UNISON Scotland's Response to the Scottish Government Food consultation is at: http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/futurefood.html - UNISON's Food for Good Charter is attached (below).

For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser) 0870 7777 006 (w) 07958 122 409 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0870 7777 006(w) 0771 558 3729(m) Robin Gourlay (East Ayrshire Council) 01563 576089

Food for Good Charter for the public sector

1. Sustainability Food should be fresh, prepared locally and sourced locally where possible. Mains-fed water coolers should be provided, minimising the use of bottled water. Public bodies should produce annual reports giving clear 'global footprint' type information on all aspects of their food use, including e.g. % of fresh, local food, progress on waste minimisation and recycling etc.

2. Health Universal free school meals should be recognised and adopted as a major contributor to improving health and tackling childhood obesity. The aim for all public sector catering should be to give a daily option of an organic/ethically produced main meal, ideally locally sourced. Vending machines on school/hospital premises should be used for healthy alternatives, not junk/fast food.

3. Social Justice Fair trade food should be used where possible, with targets of 50% by 2010 where relevant fair trade products are available. Decisions about menu options should give consideration to providing less meat-intensive diets, with more fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables and sustainable fish. Animal welfare must be prioritised, with an aim for animal produce of using only recognised farm assured schemes or organic schemes by 2015.

4. Excellence All food must meet quality nutritional standards, monitored by relevant regulators. This involves excellence in procurement and in staff training and conditions. The top priority must be the contribution of food to health and wellbeing, with recognition of the folly of previous policies that pursued Compulsory Competitive Tendering, privatisation, PFI and outsourcing - cutting standards and employment conditions, increasing the use of cook-chill and cook-freeze food, and allowing 'fast' and junk food in schools and hospitals. The public must have access to clear relevant information about food, including via labelling and annual reports.

5. Skills Quality training and proper pay and employment conditions for the sector, including training in environmental factors as part of 'green workplaces'. Lessons for young people in primary and secondary schools about the food chain, sustainability and preparation of healthy meals. Public awareness campaigns on healthy diets, tied in with support to local food co-operatives and similar initiatives to improve access to quality food for the most vulnerable.