The South West Food Hub Community Interest Company (CIC) is being launched this month to lead a collaborative food community to support the region’s food network to buy local and establish sustainable, shorter supply chains across the South West’s food sector, focusing primarily on public procurement.
The initiative is supported by local organisations including the Heart of the South West LEP, the University of Exeter, Exeter City Futures, POM Support and the National Farmers' Union (NFU).
Alex Stevens, Regional Policy Manager at the NFU says; “We are a region united by food and a strong food and drink sector will be crucial to getting the economy back on track when life returns to normality. This initiative seeks to link the region’s food producers and farmers with outlets for their fantastic produce. NFU South West is excited to work alongside these fantastic local companies and support the South West Food Hub.”
The outbreak of Covid-19 has highlighted fractures in the food supply chain and the South West Food Hub will call upon the collective expertise, experience and connections of those involved to support the regional food community during the difficult times arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, and help local businesses to ‘build back better’.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the South West Food Hub is collaborating with PKF Francis Clark and Stephens Scown LLP to facilitate an anonymised ‘healthcheck’ for local food and drink businesses to understand how they are being affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Insights from this research will enable the Hub to influence key stakeholders and develop a coordinated regional support strategy with the aspiration to build back better. Local food and drink businesses are being invited to complete the survey here.
Alongside its Covid-19 support, the South West Food Hub is delighted to be working as the Crown Commercial Service’s regional partner to prepare the area to pilot a new government initiative that will help shorten public sector food supply chains. The pilot, a new dynamic online purchasing platform, will open up public sector food procurement to local producers and suppliers. The South West Food Hub will work with anchor institutions such as schools and hospitals to mobilise the pilot, whilst supporting food and drink SMEs to meet entry criteria and prepare to supply through the new platform. Dynamic public procurement is welcomed by the industry to shorten supply chains and enable public sector organisations better access to a rich and varied range of fantastic local produce.
James Cashmore, Deputy CEO of the Soil Association, the UK's leading food and farming charity says; “Dynamic food procurement holds the prospect of creating shorter, more adaptable, more resilient supply chains, with fewer barriers to participation, particularly for local producers. Approaches such as this are needed now, more than ever.”
Greg Parsons, Co-Founder of the South West Food Hub and Director of POM Support added; “Having founded Somerset Larder to ‘feed the 5000+’ at Hinkley Point and launched food hub projects in North Wales and Cheshire, I am inspired by this opportunity to work with farmers, growers, processors and buyers in the South West. We will help to open up public sector food procurement to small and medium businesses and collaborate with partners across the region to build a ‘World Class’, future proof, sustainable supply chain.”
The South West Food Hub website is launching later this month, which will help make connections between buyers and sellers, provide information and resources and signpost services for the region’s diverse food community.
Mary Quicke MBE, Founder and MD of Quickes commented; ‘It’s lovely to see this local initiative connecting all the people who want great local food with all those people and small businesses who can accommodate supplying this food. Together, we can keep our gorgeous local food ecosystem in good shape.’