Ministers challenged over £1.2m effort to serve more local produce in schools

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Tories have challenged Holyrood ministers to “walk the walk and get results” for more locally sourced food to be served up in Scotland’s schools and hospitals.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing announced to MSPs that £1.2 million of government cash will be used to expand the Food for Life programme, in a bid to increase the number of schools dishing up local produce.

A further £100,000 will also be invested to help small and medium sized food and drink firms compete for big public sector contracts.

Mr Ewing said these measures would “put local sourcing at the heart of many public sector supply chains, meaning that more people around Scotland will be able to enjoy our locally-produced, fresh food”.

He added: ” We are committing more than £1 million over the next three years so more young people in our schools have the benefit of fresh, healthy and locally sourced food and we are supporting small and medium-sized businesses to access valuable public sectors contracts which otherwise would remain out of reach.

“There is now a real opportunity to build on the good work that has already been done in this area to unlock the potential public sector food and drink market, which is worth £150 million in Scotland annually, and for the public sector to become a trailblazer for local food and drink sourcing.”

But Tory MSP Edward Mountain told him: ” It is always easy to declare your ambitions, but much harder to deliver then. We need more detail on how this would be achieved.”

He called on the Government and local councils to ” make greater strides” in ensuring they choose Scottish food and drinks.

“If we are serious about making Scotland a good food nation we must ensure that the public sector leads the way in championing high quality produce, locally produced and delivering it to our schools and our hospitals,” the Conservative said.

“This has been talked about in this Parliament since 2007, we don’t seem to have progressed much.

“Time to deliver. The Scottish Government has talked the talk, time to walk the walk and get results.”

Labour’s Rhoda Grant said her party backed the calls for the Scottish Government and local authorities to support producers by sourcing quality Scottish food and drink.

She also called for the food and drink strategy to stamp out food bank use.

She said: “We talk about the excellence and the premium given by our produce but we need a food and drink strategy that looks at our right to food as well.

“Too many people are feeding their families out of food banks, not just those on benefits but those at work too and we need to eradicate the need for food banks.

“People need an income that allows them to eat a nutritious diet. Too often we see unhealthy food being cheap and available while healthier alternatives are way out of the reach of some families.

“We see the growth of health conditions, conditions we thought are long gone, due to malnutrition.”