This summary was written by Oxford University ECI-funded intern Aaron Hanson.

Good Food Oxford has recently convened a new Catering & Procurement Working Group (WG) as part of its mission to continue promoting high standards within the city’s food system.  The first meeting took place on Tuesday 26th September, and the group thus far has members from sectors including higher education, restaurants, healthcare, the catering-contracting industry, tourism and local government.

Oxford_Skyline_Panorama_from_St_Mary's_Church_-_Oct_2006The group has been established for a number of reasons.  To begin with, Oxford has lots to
learn from comparable cities such as Brighton and Bath with regard to various aspects of its food system – in particular, catering and food procurement.  For example, Brighton & Hove City Council runs a free ‘Healthy Choice Award’ scheme to encourage organisations which serve food to customers, patients, schoolchildren and so on, in order to actively encourage and facilitate healthier eating.  So far, over 60 primary schools, university catering outlets and restaurants have gained the award.

It is initiatives like this which we wish to see taken up in Oxford, in order to tackle health inequalities and related problems.  They would also contribute to Oxford’s gaining recognition as a Sustainable Food City: the city is progressing towards achieving a Bronze SFC Award, which will acknowledge the work which organisations and individuals throughout Oxford have put into making food here healthy, fair and sustainable.

More broadly, catering is a key area in which efforts can be effectively focused to drive changes to the way food is prepared, distributed and eaten in the UK.  It is restaurant-690975_960_720estimated that British people spend as much as 44% of their food budgets on meals bought outside the home, and that between a fifth and a quarter of us eat out at least once each week.  Given this, if catering institutions collaborate with one another they can help to drive tremendous improvements to the food people eat every day.

The purpose of the WG is to facilitate such collaboration, in light of a recent report which highlighted that opportunities for this within Oxfordshire have not yet been realised.  GFO envisages that the group will act as a common forum to enable catering and procurement personnel to address issues of common concern, learn from one another’s successes and challenges and promote high standards among their peers.

The group hopes to meet quarterly, and will work towards organising a conference sometime in the next year in the vein of the one held by B&NES and Bristol City Councils.  We anticipate that topics such as healthy eating, certification schemes, key performance indicators and the challenges of local sourcing will be covered – with the first meeting focusing on food waste in catering institutions – but the direction of the group will primarily be determined by members, as it is made up by them and intended for their benefit.  Any enthusiastic catering organisations are welcome to inquire about getting involved by contacting hannah.fenton@goodfoodoxford.org

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