Gildernew encourages use of local produce in public sector
Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA, has addressed local hospital caterers at their annual conference in Antrim.
The main focus of the local project which is centred in the North West is to encourage and support local food producers and processors to co-operate and develop in order to successfully compete for business in the public sector specifically in hospitals and schools. The Joint Northern Ireland Branch Hospital Caterers Association and Renaissance of Atlantic Food Authenticity and Economic Links (RAFAEL) Conference was held at CAFRE's Greenmount Campus.
Speaking at the Conference the Minister stated:
"The success of the RAFAEL project is a great example of how government can target resources more effectively for everyone's benefit. I am very pleased that my Department is playing it's part in this process, helping to promote the use of local food in our health service. The opening up of any new market to the local agricultural industry is to be welcomed and is another boost to the local economy in both the short and the long term."
The Minister also told delegates, which included hospital catering staff and active partners in the Rafael initiative that:
"With farming incomes under increasing pressure from both higher costs and lower farm-gate prices, the opportunities to supply the public sector market are encouraging."
She also challenged other public sector organisations to follow DARD's lead and discuss opportunities with local producers and processors, to make the procurement process more transparent, and to encourage purchase of locally produced food where possible.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- The north's Hospital Caterers Association is a professional organisation made up of Hospital and Community caterers at Senior and Middle Management level with a mix of multi-discipline associates and suppliers. The organisation has a strong voice with regard to government and European legislation.
- The RAFAEL (Renaissance of Atlantic Food Authenticity and Economic Links) project, on which this Conference is based, is funded by INTERREG across six European countries including the Six Counties and is aimed at encouraging local 'authentic' food producers to develop new markets.
- Active members of the RAFAEL group in the north include: Southern Sector of Western Health and Social Care Trust, Western Investing for Health, DARD, North West Organics, North West Rural Development Ltd,
CSA Regional Supplies Services and the Strabane Farmers Forum.