SBN is keen to establish 'Sustainable Food' clusters which will draw together all of the experts/interested parties for discussion and action. One already exists in the Central Region - click here for more information.
Interest in sustainable food is growing around the world and here in New Zealand. People are becoming more and more aware of the negative impacts our food system has on people and the planet, and the potential for positive change through the food we eat. The sustainability questions around food are complex and so developing a generic procurement policy doesn't address the specific issues. Here are the basic principles of what sustainable food is and how to ensure that your organisation is supporting a sustainable food system. Most of this information is adapted from Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming (www.sustainweb.org) who are experts in this area.
Their definition of sustainable food is food that is produced, processed and traded in ways that:
- Contribute to thriving local economies and sustainable livelihoods - both in our country and, in the case of imported products, in producer countries;
- Protect the diversity of both plants and animals (and the welfare of farmed and wild species), and avoid damaging natural resources and contributing to climate change;
- Provide social benefits, such as good quality food, safe and healthy products, and educational opportunities.
Whether serving food is your core business or you just buy it every now and then for events and meetings, your first step to support sustainable food is to develop a food policy for your organisation. This doesn't have to be a huge formal document but you need to write down the commitments you want to make.
There some key principles to sustainable food and they are outlined below.
1. Use local, seasonally available ingredients as standard, to minimise energy used in food production, transport and storage. To see which fruit and vegetables are in season see http://www.commonsenseorganics.co.nz/products/SeasonalProduceChart.pdf
Local should be defined by as local as possible. Sometimes products you need are unavailable in your immediate region so then look to New Zealand or the Pacific before sourcing product from further afieldYou should also think about whether you want to grow any food on-site. You could start off with some herbs or salad greens in window pots for staff lunches and keep growing until you have a fully fledged urban farm on your roof.
2. Specify food from farming systems that minimise harm to the environment, such as certified organic produce. For ten good reasons why you should buy organic, visit http://www.organicnz.org/86/why-organic/. For an excellent article on organics, visit http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-206. For information about the different environmental certifications see http://www.mfe.govt.nz/issues/sustainable-industry/tools-services/s...
3. Follow the Forest and Bird Best Fish guide advice http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/what-we-do/publications/-best-fish-guide. Start by excluding all fish species identified as the 'worst choice' and work towards a goal to specify fish only from sustainable sources - such as Marine Stewardship Council certified.
4. Reduce the amount of foods of animal origin (meat, dairy products and eggs) served, as livestock farming is one of the most significant contributors to climate change, and promote meals rich in fruit, vegetables, pulses, wholegrains and nuts. Ensure that meat, dairy products and eggs are produced to high environmental and animal welfare standards. See the website of Compassion in World Farming's Eat Less Meat campaign (http://www.eatlessmeat.org) for more information. When you have made the committment to cage free eggs apply for a Good Egg award to promote your good work http://rnzspca.org.nz/bluetick/good-egg-awards.
5. Choose Fairtrade-certified products for foods and drinks imported from poorer countries, to ensure a fair deal for disadvantaged producers. Find suppliers of fair trade products here http://www.fta.org.au/buy-sell. Pledge to be a Fairtrade workplace http://www.fairtrade.com.au/get-involved/workplace and hold a Fairtrade Coffee Break to raise money during Fairtrade fortnight.
6. Promote health and well-being by offering generous portions of vegetables, fruit and starchy staples like wholegrains, cutting down on salt, fats and oils, and cutting out artificial additives (for advice on healthy eating see http://www.diabetes.org.nz/food_and_nutrition). Think of creative ideas to help your staff and customers access healthier and more sustainable food. One idea is to start a food buying co-op especially if you already have a relationship with wholesalers. Letting your staff access the lower prices associated with bulk purchasing could help them eat better food (see this website for tips on starting food purchasing co-ops www.foodcoops.org)
7. Avoid bottled water (including water coolers that aren't plumbed in) and instead serve plain or filtered tap water in reusable jugs or bottles, to minimise transport and packaging waste. For information about the environmental problems associated with bottled water, see Sustain's report: Have you bottled it? How drinking tap water can help save you and the planet - (http://www.sustainweb.org/page.php?id=137).
8. Communication. If you are putting all of this work into purchasing healthy and sustainable food you should make sure that the people eating the food know about it. Add a sentence or two to the end of your menus that explain your commitments (e.g. "all animal products are free range"). Use the names of your suppliers in the menu descriptions. You could put together a supplier map that your customers can look at. Look for schemes you can sign up to that have logos that customers look out for (http://www.consciousconsumers.org.nz/).
If you don't do your own catering but organise it for meetings and events, put a sign on the table telling people where the food comes from and what commitments you have about food purchasing.
9. Waste - food and packaging, energy and water. What do you do with your food waste? Can you think of a better use for it? It could be composted (http://www.wellington.govt.nz/services/rubbrecyc/kaitocompost.html), taken home for someone's worm farm or if still edible shared with others (http://kaibosh.org.nz/index.html).
Monitor your energy and water use in your kitchen with the rest of your building and make targets to reduce them. Monitor your inorganic waste such as packaging and keep talking to your suppliers about how to reduce that.
Other good resources: