The Getting Started Guide
A simple 5-step guide to buying more sustainable food for caterers, chefs & buyers working in the public sector
This guide has been prepared by the South East Food Group Partnership with support from Sustain.
This guide is intended to inspire you to take the first step (often the most difficult) along the road to improved food sustainability. Each section includes practical tools, such as sample sustainability policies, suggested agendas for meetings & example marketing ideas.
You can follow the links on the left to move from section to section and look out for the ready-to-use templates available to download in each section.
You can also download a PDF of the entire guide on the left hand side of this page.
What’s in it for you?
Food and food culture is a visible demonstration of an organisation’s attitude to caring for the basic needs of its customers, employees and visitors. It tends to be a highly emotive subject, particularly in the public sector, where the recipients often have the greatest need for excellent nutrition – schools, hospitals, prisons, armed forces and elderly care.
Some benefits are easy to see – reduced waste, improved recycling processes, increased revenues and the reward of publicity. However, many of the benefits are likely to be intangible, yet may have an even greater impact on your team.
Organisations where the whole team commits to, and becomes involved in, the task of learning about and appreciating food, have found staff retention improves, team morale is strengthened and relationships with the local community are greatly improved.
What do we mean by sustainable food?
Sustainable food doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Put simply, it is food which is bought, consumed and prepared with as little impact on the environment as possible, for a fair price, and which makes a positive contribution to your local economy. Making just a few simple improvements to the way you purchase food counts as success.
Some simple guidelines include:
• Using local, seasonally available ingredients as standard, to minimise food transport, storage and energy use.
• Specifying produce from farming systems that minimise harm to the environment, such as certified organic.
• Limiting foods of animal origin (meat, dairy products and eggs), as livestock farming is one of the most
significant contributors to climate change, and promoting meals rich in fruit, vegetables, pulses and nuts.
• Ensuring that meat, dairy and egg products are produced to high environmental and animal welfare standards.
• Excluding fish species identified as most at risk by the Marine Conservation Society, and specifying fish only from
sustainable sources e.g. those accredited by the Marine Stewardship Council.
• Buying Fairtrade-certified products for foods and drinks imported from poorer countries, to ensure a fair deal for
• Avoiding bottled water and instead serving plain or filtered tap water in reusable jugs or bottles, to minimise transport and