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Food Partnership leading the way - national report

Andy Preston with children from Corpus Christi Catholic Primary School

Middlesbrough Council and the town’s pioneering Food Partnership have been named one of the best in the UK in a new report on how councils are tackling the climate emergency.

The accolade has been hailed by Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston who this week renewed his commitment to making the town ‘hunger-free’.

The Every Mouthful Counts report by food and farming alliance Sustain put UK councils’ action on food and climate change under the spotlight.

Middlesbrough Council – in partnership with the Middlesbrough Food Partnership - was highlighted as one of the top performers, and one of just 21 out nearly 200 recognised as leaders.

The Council is committed to ensuring the town acts to tackle climate change and promote sustainable lifestyles as part of its wide-reaching strategic priorities.

The achievement comes amid calls for local authorities to do more to help tackle climate change, and warnings from the UN that current efforts to curb the climate emergency will fall short without large-scale changes in land use, agriculture and diets.

With an annual procurement spend of £70 billion, and as owners of up to 1.3 million acres of land, UK councils have significant opportunities to take action on climate change.

While the best councils have plans to support sustainable farming, tackle food waste and buy higher standard food for schools, six in ten were found to have omitted food and farming in their plans to tackle climate change.

Sustain found that better performing councils are taking action on food and farming including buying sustainable food for council catering, ensuring their farms are sustainable, allocating land for local food growing and supporting citizens to eat more healthy, sustainable diets.

Ruth Westcott, climate and nature emergency co-ordinator at Sustain, said: “In the UK we have huge potential to grow more food, more sustainably, support great sustainable farmers and tackle the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis at the same time. 

“We found examples of local councils doing a great job and there is lots they can do, from making their own farms sustainable to driving down food waste and opening up school food contracts to higher standard British farmers.

“We now call on national governments to step up - councils must be given the resources they need to support a transition to more sustainable farming and diets at a local level.”

Leading councils including Middlesbrough have set up localised purchasing systems, and encouraged more climate-friendly diets through public communication, and increased allotment and community food growing provision.

Councils working with a Sustainable Food Partnership scored on average 11% higher in the research, and were found to have more measurable and comprehensive plans to protect our planet’s future through food.

Welcoming the Every Mouthful Counts report, Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: “The challenges we face - not just locally but globally - are huge, so it’s vital that we play our part.

“We’ve been working towards sustainable food in Middlesbrough for a decade now, and I’m particularly proud of the Middlesbrough Food Partnership which is doing amazing things from boosting local growing to working with the council to make school meals more plant-based and climate-friendly.

“It’s work that gets the whole community involved, with more people than ever before interested in good quality, sustainable food.

“Our growing network of Eco Shops and community pantries redistribute good quality surplus food, and there’s been a resurgence in community growing and urban agriculture initiatives.

“The Food Partnership is making a real difference and it’s great to see that highlighted in the Every Mouthful Counts report – but there’s so much still to do and we cannot afford to be complacent.”

To find out more, visit the Middlesbrough Food Partnership website and the Middlesbrough Environment City website.