Following the initiative of a CCRI team funded by the ROBUST project (funded by the EU Horizon programme), The National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) was able to support Gloucestershire being part of initial conversations about being a pilot exploring Public Sector food procurement with SMEs. This initiative was a partnership including the Crown Commercial Services (CCS), Gloucestershire County Council and the CCRI. The pilot provided valuable insights into the food procurement of many of the County’s Anchor Institutes and an opportunity to examine the County’s current food system.
This procurement project, also working with BoomCircle, the National Farmers Union, the South West Food Hub and Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest, conducted a grassroots survey with local suppliers and farmer focus groups to build evidence to demonstrate their appetite for growing a local procurement market with initial engagement activity also being undertaken with key anchor institutions.
As one of NICRE’s innovation projects, run by the CCRI, work is ongoing to understand the barriers to local procurement throughout the supply chain and liaise with rural businesses and communities to develop new approaches to realise new opportunities.
Work is also taking place with procurement teams in the public sector and private hospitality sectors to raise awareness and influence changes to buying behaviour to incorporate more local produce. This project connects closely with the aforementioned Food for Life initiative, a scheme which underpins the local procurement philosophy.
At present the CCS work around food procurement has been delayed; however, an independent group called Dynamic Purchasing UK has taken up the challenge to develop and roll out a new system to support Public Sectors bodies to source food more locally. There is much work to unfold in this area and significant opportunities for the County.