In just under 500 days, the Olympic Games 2012 will kick off with over 60 days of world class competition taking place in the UK. Over 8.6 million tickets will be available for the Olympic Games, with another 1.5 million for the Paralympic Games and it is estimated that during this time approximately 14 million meals will be needed, thatâ€™s equivalent to around 2% of the number of school meals served in the UK over a year.
The organising Olympic committee for the London, or as I like to refer to it the British, Olympics has heralded this as the greenest of Games ever and promising to promote sustainability and healthy living.Â This, I feel, means a once in a life-time opportunity to ensure that we as a Nation promote, support and â€śshout-outâ€ť to all the fantastic British growers and producers to take part.Â After meeting with the Prime Minister and Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office at London recently for the SME Strategic Supplier Summit, I asked David Cameron what we could do to ensure that small as well as large growers, farmers and producers get a chance to show-case their produce everywhere.
My concerns, in particular, are that if we donâ€™t plan and programme the British growers, farmers and producers now, this year â€“ we could end up with a gap between the increase in demand that is coming and the supply.Â This would necessitate the importation of products that we are more than capable of producing and growing here in the UK.
I am also actively working together with hiSbe (Ruth and Amy Anslow) to help to promote and make the Great British public aware, via our Pledge on the Must Be British page on their website of the need to support British Farming and Food.
In order to try and give my views Iâ€™ve styled this blog in the form of an interview, below you will find a transcript of the â€śinterviewâ€ť I have given in response to the challenge of sourcing British Food for the British Olympics.
A report by the Â©Soil Association, Sustain and ref 2007 ‘Feeding the Olympics’ – How and why the food for London 2012 should be local, organic and ethical was the first step in a campaign to ensure that the food associated with the London 2012 Games matches the values enshrined within the Olympic Charter, and the promises made in the London bid for the â€śmost sustainable games everâ€ť. Specifically, the bid promised â€śto support consumption of local, seasonal and organic produceâ€ť.
Do you agree with the targets set out the by Olympic committee i.e. to support local, seasonal and organic or do you believe that a more realistic balance of part imported part British produce should have been agreed?
Carol Ford:….I think that organisations such as Sustain and the NFU have been critical in ensuring that LOCOG (the Olympic committee appointed to run the games) backs up its claim to support consumption of British local and seasonal food.Â This has been achieved through the out sourcing with the catering contractors, and specifically their adherence to the Red Tractor standards for British supplied foods.
However, my concerns are that whilst the core contractors are bound by their contracts to source as much British grown food as possible the delivery of this remains outside of the contracts.Â More to the point there has been very little dialogue with grass roots growers, farmers and producers to ensure that enough land and therefore food is being planned for next year.
The Olympics will create an additional demand for food because of the influx of customers and consumers coming to the UK for the Olympics.Â Without the planning now, and I mean now, this additional demand will I believe either be met by suppliers diverting existing production to the Olympic providers taking it away from the traditional sales channels of retailers, wholesale markets, etc, leaving a gap.Â This gap will need to be filled and my concern is that this gap will necessitate the need for imports.
With a little planning now and some concrete commitments to our British growers, farmers and producers this can be avoided and we can have British foods supplying both the Olympics and our normal requirements as a country.
So I do believe that there has been a big commitment made to source British, local and seasonal food at the front end (contractors) but I think that at the sharp end the production â€“ there has been little focus.
As has been shown with previous Games, aspirations to be green are often not met due to spiralling costs. For example Athens abandoned its environmental commitments due to rising costs and a fast approaching deadline. (In just two years since the bid was won, the budget for London 2012 quadrupled from its original estimates)
With just over a year to go, in your opinion would you agree that the 2012 Olympics isÂ still on target to beÂ the greenest Games of all time with regard to supporting the consumption of local, seasonal and organic produce or has the vision been scaled down?
Carol Ford:â€¦the original vision has had to be scaled down in the sense that organic produce is still a niche market when compared to conventional production methods.Â I am of the opinion that there has been a lot of work completed in getting adherence to British local and seasonal food ambition, which is fantastic.Â As above I am doubtful or have concerns that the additional production required to meet this spike in demand is there.Â I am of the opinion still that not enough has been done to increase production.
Whilst LOCOG has been great at getting the catering contractors within the Olympics â€“ like the village for example â€“ there has been virtually no work completed on promoting and compelling British locally and seasonally sourced foods for those outlets, such as local shops, pubs, restaurants, etc., outside of the Olympics.Â This brings me back again to the point we will have an additional influx of visitors next year over and above the normal amount of overseas visitors we have coming to the UK for holidays.
There was some initial concern that smaller producers would not get an opportunity to supply the Games, despite LOCOGâ€™s commitments to showcase British produce.
In your experience do you feel that LOCOG have ensured that a substantial percentage of fresh produce is being sourced from local and regional suppliers?
Carol Ford:â€¦I am of the opinion that smaller producers that produce some brilliant British produce at this stage will not get a bite of the cherry.Â I am hopeful that the NFU inspired scheme of employing Business Development Managers at the Wholesale markets may be a way of small producers getting their produce to market.
The last thing any farmer or grower wants to do is grow or produce more if they do not have a sale for their produce.Â I think LOCOG needs to ensure that programmes and contracts are given to our farmers and growers to build confidence in them to grow additional produce for the Olympics, in order to fulfil not only the needs of the nation in 2012, but also to ensure there is a British local and seasonal legacy after the Olympics.
But there is also a responsibility on all of us in the UK as consumers to support our wonderful heritage as farmers and growers.Â This industry contributes to the National, Regional and Local economies, the Olympics represent an opportunity to get behind not only our national teams, but also our heritage.Â It may not be glamorous but farming is the life blood of our country, the ability to feed ourselves as a nation should be a priority.
With the emphasis of the 2012 Games being on promoting links between healthy eating, sport and well being, with up to 2 million meals being served to children during the games, how do you believe the fresh produce industryâ€™s 5 a day message should be championed if it is to inspire healthy lifestyles in our young. Especially when fast-food giants McDonaldâ€™s and Coca-Cola are the main sponsors of the Games?
Carol Ford:â€¦Change 4 Life, the NFU, the Fresh Produce Consortium to name but a few, should be engaging more widely with the UK population.Â Â This can be easily achieved if the right tactics were in place to deliver the strategy of 5-a-day.Â Quite simply I find it amazing almost shocking for example that there is no 5-a-day facebook page, an interesting point to note – there is an “I Fail at 5-a-day” facebook page that has some 95,000 followers/likes.Â It is also amazing that the 5-a-day campaign will be remembered for decreasing consumption of fresh foods and produce.
I understand that the budgets these types of food giants have can’t be matched, by campaigns such as 5-a-day, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be successful in inspiring healthy lifestyles in our young.Â Particularly when you have a sporting event as iconic as the Olympics already advertising using sports people/personalities.
With our Must Be British “Shout-Out” campaign, we (hiSbe and Growing Direct) have demonstrated by using the right tools (Social Media) with a positive message “We’ve Got the World Coming to Dinner” – you can engage and re-connect the Great British public with our Great British heritage of growing and farming.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I would ask have you made the Pledge yet?