School children and hospital patients set for higher quality food under new government plans

A new agreement for procuring food and drink has been announced by the Crown Commercial Service

  • Crown Commercial Service agreement will support food producers, including SMEs, in accessing public sector food contracts
  • Plans to drive up standards of food and drink available to the public sector including schoolchildren and hospital patients
  • Initial stages of the agreement are estimated to attract £100 million worth of spend

New plans revealed today will help schools, hospitals and other organisations buy higher quality food and drink at better value for the taxpayer.

A single online portal will make it easier for public sector customers and small businesses by offering a simplified route to markets - opening up access to a range of food and drink suppliers for the public sector.

This has the added benefit of creating more choice for customers, while improving standards and providing better access to locally-sourced produce. Public sector procurement teams will also have the option to add their preferred SME suppliers to the agreement.

All suppliers available through the portal will have to adhere to the updated Government Buying Standards for Food, which the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) are set to update in due course.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office, Minister Alex Burghart, said:

"Delivering better value for the taxpayer and driving up food and drink standards are key priorities for government.

"This new system will deliver better quality food to our schoolchildren and care home residents, while creating a level playing field to help small businesses win more contracts from the public sector."

The government’s ambition is to further embed Government Buying Standards (GBS) to food and catering served through all public sector organisations. The framework will increase compliance with the GBS further.

This delivers a centralised option for purchasing food and drink and will be made available for the public sector across the UK. The agreement will enable public sector organisations to source healthy and high-quality produce in a consistent way - all their food and drink needs will be available in one place, providing a holistic approach to the ordering, fulfilment, consolidation and delivery of food produce.

By harnessing the collective buying power of customers across the public sector, the agreement is expected to significantly reduce costs and therefore help combat food inflation.

Crown Commercial Service (CCS), the UK’s largest public procurement organisation and part of the Cabinet Office, has worked with DEFRA to develop the new agreement. As part of that process, CCS has engaged extensively with SMEs to ensure the UK’s business community has directly fed into the plans.

Mark Spencer, Food Minister, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said:

"The UK produces world leading quality food and drink, demonstrating excellence in animal welfare and sustainable production standards.

"This is an exciting opportunity for the public sector to lead by example, showcasing our great food and drink and supporting small businesses. We look forward to working with CCS on the agreement."

Simon Tse, CEO of Crown Commercial Service said:

"We’re delighted to be working alongside Defra to introduce better quality, seasonal and nutritious food into schools, hospitals and prisons.

"As we continue to level up and grow the economy, this food solution will support public sector bodies in purchasing good quality food and help local and small businesses compete for public sector contracts for the first time, opening up economic opportunities across the country."

Crown Commercial Service has engaged with food suppliers and industry bodies from across the UK to develop its procurement strategy for the new agreement, which is expected to be open for business in Spring 2024.

The initial contract value is estimated to attract £100 million worth of spend over the 4 year contract period, which is a small proportion of the annual £2.1 billion public sector food spend. Public sector buyers are free to choose to buy from other buying organisations who provide food products through frameworks in a similar way.

Cabinet Office
Crown Commercial Service
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
Alex Burghart MP
The Rt Hon Mark Spencer MP