Most food served in schools sourced outside Scotland, data shows

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Less than a fifth of food served in schools is from Scotland, according to new figures.

Chicken from Thailand, turkey from Brazil and pears from China are among the items served up in school dinner halls across Scotland.

Scottish Conservative analysis of data obtained through a freedom of information request found Scotland Excel, the shared national procurement service, spent just 16% of its budget for school food on food sourced in Scotland between July 2017 and June 2018.

A further 15% of school food was sourced elsewhere and then manufactured here.

The Tories said Scotland Excel spent £42.5 million on school food on behalf of councils, meaning it spent £6.7 million on school food from Scotland, and £6.4 million on school food that is manufactured in Scotland.

They are calling for changes to the way food is procured, to support Scottish food producers and to reduce food miles.

Brian Whittle, Scottish Conservative spokesman for sport and wellbeing, said: “We ask our farmers to produce the highest quality produce; we charge them with custodianship of the countryside; with paying the living wage and with the highest standards of animal welfare.

“Yet when it comes to public food procurement it is clear that our farmers are not being supported in the way that they should.

“These figures show that a substantial amount of school food is still travelling thousands of food miles before reaching a child’s plate.

“One of the key elements in tackling health inequalities and the stubborn attainment gap surely should be ensuring the high quality food produced right here in Scotland makes its way to the Scottish schools’ dining halls.

“That is evidently not the norm and needs to change, to support our children’s health and wellbeing, to support our food producers, and to cut back on an unnecessary carbon footprint.”

While not all school food is purchased through Scotland Excel, 28 of the 32 local authorities do use the procurement service, the Tories said.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scotland has an outstanding natural larder and we want everyone to make the most of the food and drink produced on our doorstep.

“While it is for local authorities to decide how they buy food that is healthy, nutritious, affordable and to the highest standards, we have been working hard with the Scottish food industry, Scotland Excel, and local authorities, with good progress being made to source locally.

“The Food for Life Programme is operating across 11 local authorities in Scotland, supporting the provision of more locally sourced, healthier food being served to the local schools.

“We are now investing £400,000 to expand the programme to reach more schools and target all 32 local authorities.”

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