A new food procurement process for schools and hospitals will allow small producers to contribute to larger public sector orders.

And in a move to ensure public institutions serve food that supports sustainable, British farm businesses, Soil Association Exchange will deliver environmental data for farms in public sector purchasing as part of the Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS) Buying Better Food and Drink agreement.

The agreement is available for all UK public sector organisations to use for buying food and drink through a single online access point peovided by Entegra, following a tender process in 2023.

As well as a shift to more dynamic food procurement – which removes barriers to allow small producers to contribute to larger public sector orders – the updated service will also use Exchange’s holistic farm assessments for sustainability.

Exchange measures the environmental impact of farm operations by assessing six key areas – soil, water, carbon, animal welfare, social impacts, and biodiversity.

It does this by collecting data through on the ground farm surveys, satellite imagery and other datasets on metrics like soil carbon and bird counts, alongside considering the food production and community benefits a farm provides.

Soil Association Exchange Chief Executive Joseph Gridley said: “These measurements consider the full picture and can help to show schools and hospitals all of the brilliant things that farmers are doing to support nature while producing good quality food. With our farm level sustainability data and new technology from Equilibrium Markets designed with small businesses in mind, we hope we will soon see a much wider variety of producers accessing this important market.”

The Buying Better Food and Drink agreement from CCS sets new parameters for procurement enabling more informed sourcing decisions based on individual farm levels and the social, environmental, and economic impact of food and drink choices.

Any farmer can get involved by obtaining a sustainability score from Soil Association Exchange for free at soilassociationexchange.com