An ambitious program from the Soil Association in the UK to have more organic meals served in public sector kitchens received a boost in October, following calls by the Soil Association Scotland for healthier food to be provided on the menu and as a way of life in schools, hospitals, care homes, workplaces, and cities under its Food For Life program.
It was backed by Mark Ruskell, a Green Party member of the Scottish Parliament, who wants a mandatory requirement for all public-sector kitchens to serve organic food, according to several newspaper reports.
And Mr. Ruskell pointed to a policy introduced in Denmark where its Organic Cuisine Label is being used in 60 percent of large-scale kitchens, while the government has a goal to see organics in 60 percent of all food served in public institutions, including care homes, nurseries, and prisons. Public agencies accounted for more than 1,300 of the 1,800 Organic Cuisine Labels in Denmark in 2016.
The Soil Association said that more schools, hospitals, and workplaces were now serving organic food and Aoife Behan, policy manager of Soil Association Scotland, said all public-sector bodies should be beacons of good food, and the Denmark example shows that it can be done. "Through our Food for Life Scotland program, we know that Scottish local authorities are also making great strides," she said.
Earlier this year, in its annual organic market report, the Soil Association UK said that more schools, hospitals, and workplaces were now serving organic food - up by 19.1 percent in 2016.
Demand had been strongly driven by its Food for Life Catering Mark, it said. The association said some GBP15 million was now spent on organic food in the sector - an increase of 66 percent.
Ms. Behan told FarmingUK that North Ayrshire, East Ayrshire, Stirling and Aberdeen City Council all source organic food for their school meals. "From our experience, using organic produce does not necessarily lead to higher food costs in public sector kitchens," she said.
"In fact, it can bring many other benefits such as increased access to seasonal fruit and vegetables, higher staff morale in public sector kitchens and positive environmental outcomes."
The Scottish Government has promised to consult on a Good Food Nation Bill and said targets for organic food in the public sector should be part of a package of measures.
In October 2017, Scottish National Party ministers unveiled plans to tackle Scotland’s obesity epidemic, with supermarket price promotions on junk food are to be restricted, and restaurant meal sizes could be capped.
A new Scottish Government diet and obesity strategy, published for consultation, said ministers are “minded” to clamp down on promotions on food that is high in fat, salt, and sugar that could include a ban on multi-buy offers on products such as crisps and sweets, or shops temporarily discounting their price to increase sales.
Medical and health associations led by Cancer Research UK welcomed the “bold proposals,” while TV chef Jamie Oliver praised the Scottish Government for its “bold, brave and trailblazing move to transform our kids’ diets” and urged Westminster to follow suit.
But the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), which includes the supermarket chains, warned they risked hitting “hard-pressed households already struggling with inflation and other rising costs.”