Imported milk and bread could be served in school meals as part of a cost-saving policy to centralise services, critics claim.
Ramsey Commissioners have written to Chief Minister Allan Bell urging him to ensure government tenders only for produce that is locally sourced.
During the Budget debate this week, Michael MHK Alfred Canann said the government’s procurement policy was wrong and needed to be changed back.
The Chief Minister announced last month that catering services would be brought together within the new Department of Health and Social Care as part of a move to share government services with the aim of saving more than £4m a year.
In his letter to Mr Bell, Ramsey Commissioners clerk Peter Whiteway said: ‘It is understood this process will mean the cessation of supply to Ramsey Grammar School of produce from local butchers and the local bakery, that this position will similarly apply for other schools in Peel and Castletown, and it has been suggested that the centralised tendering process may permit the importation of meat and bakery produce from off-island.’
Mr Whiteway said the commissioners viewed the proposals with ‘grave concern’ – not only because of the need for a varied and nutrious diet for school children but because of the ‘considerable’ impact this may have on local suppliers.
In Tynwald, Mr Cannan said local suppliers would be ‘cut out of the loop’. He said: ‘It appears it is the cheapest option or nothing, even if that means buying bread and milk from the UK. As a Manxman I want to see local industry succeed, as a resident I want to see my towns thriving and as a parent I want to know my children are eating locally grown, healthy food. This particular procurement policy is wrong and must be changed back.’
Centralised procurement was introduced in 2010, generating significant savings. It is understood that most suppliers have been local. It is the management of catering not the production of meals being centralised.
In a written reply to a Tynwald question, Mr Bell said some island secondary schools have stopped using Manx bread. He said there was no government policy requiring departments to use Manx produce. The prison, too, has stopped using Manx bread as have some care homes.