Growing school of thought: a carrot stick approach to local food in East Renfrewshire.

This week we are pleased to have made our first local organic vegetable deliveries to the kitchens of primary schools across East Renfrewshire. Each of the 21 primary schools will get a mixed box of produce every week which will be used to provide crudités (finger food) for children to help themselves to at lunch time.

The decision to trial the boxes came following a discussion with the catering team of East Renfrewshire Council, who invited us to meet and talk about how we could get more local organic produce onto school plates in the local authority. From there the turnaround to starting our deliveries has been surprisingly quick and easy. The initiative will help the Council in pursuit of their Food for Life Silver Award; they already hold a bronze from carrying out other activities including growing vegetables in school gardens and cooking with pupils.

We’re really pleased to be working with East Renfrewshire Council as it is home to our Left Field Market Garden and our glasshouses at Rouken Glen, a former Council nursery, and another example of East Renfrewshire Council creating opportunities for social enterprises through their leasing of the site to Young Enterprise Scotland.

We’re delighted that our produce is reaching school plates just a few miles away from where it is grown, and with the enthusiasm we have seen from the kitchen staff about this so far. Although the overall quantity of produce we are delivering is a small part of that required by the schools, we see the project as a great starting point for us to demonstrate that it is fairly straightforward to start putting local organic produce on public sector plates. We will do our best to make this a success by working with the Council teams and providing guidance to the school cooks as the produce changes with the seasons.

Of course we have much bigger ambitions for local food and would like to see public sector procurement in Scotland change significantly to further favour good food with a social impact. This could be done through removing the barriers, like huge contract sizes, that prevent enterprises like us from getting in the door. We would like to see local, organic, healthy food that does good for society to be the norm in public sector procurement.

The potential is enormous. Imagine the social impact achievable if all school and hospital meals in Scotland were produced with locally grown organic ingredients. The public sector needs to do an awful lot more to let this happen, as do producers and organisations like us to build alternatives that are ready to rock. We’re pleased East Renfrewshire Council is trying out doing things differently and we hope to prove ourselves, and the stupidly radical concept that local organic growers can provide the public sector with good food which benefits society and our local economies.

We’re really looking forward to making the best of this opportunity and seeing how it develops. We are also keen to work with other nearby Councils (come on GLASGOW!?) and public sector bodies to help move local food procurement forward in any way we can.

That’s your cue(cumber), and here’s our phone number: 0141 423 8685

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