By Mary Stevens
The Western Morning News is claiming a breakthrough in its “Buy Local” campaign after Cornwall Council said it would use local food in its schools.
The campaign was launched 18 months ago in response to desperation among farmers in the aftermath of the foot and mouth outbreak.
It received a second boost recently when rural affairs minister Alun Michael, speaking in the House of Commons, said there was a way around EU rules which prohibited public authorities from awarding contracts to local firms.
The first phase of WMN’s campaign targeted food outlets such as restaurants, pubs and cafÅ½s. More than 200 have signed up to the campaign and every one has received a profile in the paper and a sticker of Jeff Chef to display on the premises.
In its second phase, launched in November, the paper targeted bulk buyers such as schools and hospitals. Last week the paper reported that Cornwall Council had switched to a contractor that used local food for its 115 state primary schools and one state secondary. More than 100 individual schools have signed up. Hospitals will be targeted next.
A leader column in the paper said: “It is a significant breakthrough for our campaign, and potentially a huge boost to the local agricultural economy. It should also ensure that children who eat school dinners across Cornwall receive better quality and healthier meals and that damage done to the environment through transporting foodstuffs thousands of miles across the globe is reduced.”
Editor Barrie Williams said: “After a sticky start, the campaign is beginning to get some real momentum. Schools are beginning to get into it and they are absolutely crucial.
“Prince Charles has supported it at every turn. He gives us his seal of approval and has always been ready to give us forewords for the special supplements we have done.” Ian Mean, who was Williams’ deputy before he became editor of The Citizen, Gloucester, last year, has launched a similar campaign.
“Mean was my assistant editor and when he moved to Gloucester he took the campaign with him,” said Williams. “We are the only two papers doing it seriously at the moment but there are lots of other local papers who might want to take it up as well.”