Amazing to be cited in a UN report — but also sad…

Email from Robin this morning:

Your fame spreads folks… isn’t it in equal measure amazing, rewarding and sad that this April 2014 United Nations report quotes East Ayrshire work started over 10 years ago and that other than your intervention which attributed some metric to this with SROI there is internationally such a dearth of similar evaluations.

In 2004 Robin set up a ground breaking, award winning programme in East Ayrshire which continues to provide children with healthy, unprocessed, local and organic school meals.

Robin commissioned my colleague Sheila and I to estimate the ‘social return on investment’ of this project. The high quality school meals cost a bit more than ‘normal’ school meals, but were better for the children, staff, local business and the environment in many different ways. We estimated how much these benefits were worth in financial terms.

We’re all chuffed that the project and our findings are cited with approval in a briefing by Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur to the UN on the right to food:

In East Ayrshire (Scotland), school food reform has produced a SROI index of above 6, meaning that ‘for every £1 invested in the initiative, over £6 of value is created in economic, social, environmental and other outcomes’.

Such multiplier effects cannot be ignored in assessing the costs of targeted procurement programmes. [These] costs may be justified taking into account the full range of benefits, including higher incomes and improved market skills for small-scale food producers, as well as against the multiplier effects on the local economy.

But as Robin says, it’s terribly disappointing that our work hasn’t been superceded by other more recent, and more in depth, assessments of the benefits of public bodies making purchasing decisions on the basis of long term social and environmental wellbeing. As Mr De Schutter says:

Governments have few sources of leverage over increasingly globalized food systems — but public procurement is one of them. When sourcing food for schools, hospitals and public administrations, Governments have a rare opportunity to support more nutritious diets and more sustainable food systems in one fell swoop.

O. Lancaster and S. Durie, The Social Return on Investment of Food for Life School Meals in East Ayrshire, Edinburgh, Footprint Consulting Limited, 2008

Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, The Power of Procurement: Public Purchasing in the Service of Realizing the Right to Food, Report to the UN Human Rights Council, 2014