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University strengthens community ties through local sourcing

June 12, 2024

The University of Portsmouth’s catering service is working with local and regional suppliers to meet the growing demand from its customers for more sustainable food provision. By addressing challenges strategically and fostering collaboration with local businesses, large businesses can contribute to a more vibrant and sustainable local food ecosystem. 

The University of Portsmouth, caters to over 23,000 students and staff, offers a diverse food service operation. This includes nine on-campus outlets ranging from grab-and-go options to full coffee shops, a comprehensive event catering service, and half-board catering for student residences. Recognising the growing demand for sustainable practices and locally sourced products, the service has actively pursued partnerships with regional suppliers. 

Benefits of local sourcing 

  • Meeting customer needs: University customers increasingly prioritise sustainability and reduced food miles. Local sourcing aligns with these demands, enhancing customer satisfaction and potentially leading to increased sales. 
  • Improved efficiency: Streamlined invoicing systems with local suppliers can simplify administrative tasks and reduce back-office costs.

David Goodwin, Head of Catering at the University of Portsmouth said: 

“Sourcing local food is a win win for our customers. It enables us to satisfy the demands of university staff and students who actively request our food provision is sustainable and that includes food miles and buying locally. It also allows us to offer products in smaller quantities which are tailored to our customer needs, such as branded cakes for Graduation.”

Challenges of local sourcing 

  • Compliance: Balancing the safety and efficiency of established procurement frameworks with the unique offerings of smaller, local businesses requires additional internal checks. 
  • Adapting to university requirements: Local businesses need to adapt to the University’s strict procurement and financial guidelines to qualify as suppliers. 

Success strategies 

  • Start small: Implementing local sourcing incrementally, with a few pilot products, allows for smoother integration and ongoing evaluation. 
  • Customer feedback: Actively solicit customer feedback on local offerings to gauge interest and identify areas for improvement.
  • Highlight local connections: Promote the University’s commitment to local sourcing, emphasising the benefits of supporting the regional community and reducing environmental impact.

Building a stronger local food network 

The University emphasises the need for: 

  • Directory and network: A centralised directory of local food and beverage producers in Portsmouth and the surrounding area would significantly streamline sourcing efforts.
  • Networking events: Events like Eat the Island provide valuable opportunities for universities and local businesses to connect, build relationships, and explore potential partnerships.

The University of Portsmouth currently works with the Fruit Basket (fruit & veg, Gosport) , Solent Butchers (Portsmouth), Portsmouth Commercial Bakery (bread and pastry items, Portsmouth), Southsea Bagel Company (bagels, Southsea) , Hoxtons (cakes and parties, Southampton), Sweetcakes (cakes, Fareham)

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