A group of Assembly Members has called on the Welsh Government to do more to recognise the health and well-being benefits of getting locally-sourced food into schools and hospitals.
In a new report, the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee called for an ‘overarching food strategy’ to encourage joined-up thinking across Government departments and bring about the best results for public health.
Good food is known to be vital for recovery from illness, but a survey by the Soil Association found more than half of patients and their family members would not feed hospital food to a child, and nearly a quarter had their meals brought to them by relatives.
The AMs also found the National Procurement Service was vastly over-estimating the value of food contracts, putting local suppliers off bidding for services.
Mike Hedges, chair of the committee, said: “We are concerned at the perception of public food procurement among suppliers in Wales.
“That some companies see the sector as unreliable, and that contracts are often not worth the estimated value placed on them by the National Procurement Service, means more must be done to restore faith and ensure tenders are attractive enough for businesses to bid for them.
“We also believe there are wider benefits to explore in terms of health and wellbeing among patients and schoolchildren at Welsh hospitals and schools.
“So we are recommending the Welsh Government develop an overarching food strategy, which sees food as an investment in the lives of people in Wales.
“As a starting point, we must make the most of the £74 million a year being spent by the public sector so we can improve health, wellbeing and social outcomes.”
Myths and exaggerations about EU procurement rules were also found to be stopping local suppliers from bidding for public contracts, according to the committee.
It found evidence that other EU countries had not been prevented from procuring locally-produced, healthy and sustainable food for their public sectors.
The Welsh Government will now consider the report from the committee.