A Government drive to ensure schools, hospitals and prisons source their food from local producers is failing to get off the ground, it has been claimed.

Only a handful of schools in the West Midlands have made efforts to buy in local produce, with the majority of public sector businesses continuing to purchase from abroad.

Karen Wright, food and drink cluster manager for Advantage West Midlands, said efforts were being made but progress had been slow.

The public procurement initiative was launched by the Government more than three years ago to encourage local authorities, hospitals and other public sectors to support local producers by buying their food locally.

But only a few schools in Shropshire have so far risen to the challenge, although others public bodies are planning to follow suit, including University Hospital Birmingham and Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry.

Ms Wright, who helped launch a strategy last month to raise the profile of local food producers, said: "It is quite difficult to change the attitudes of buyers and to give them incentives to change. If they have always bought from one person and that person has never given them any trouble why should they change?

"It is understandable because it takes time for these things to filter through.

"It would be nice to see more positive examples and find more examples so we can prove it does work."

Ms Wright is a member of the newly formed West Midlands Food Partnership which has been formed to boost regional food businesses.

The group, which includes representatives from Advantage West Midlands and Heart of England Fine Foods, will look at public procurement initiatives, encourage producers to become more profitable and tackle the problems some face because of the supermarkets' strangle-hold on the industry.

She said many farmers would be forced to change in order to compete on a global scale, turning to processing rather than selling raw ingredients.

"With the food market on a world scale, it is very difficult to be truly competitive in the commodity market. We do have a very competitive soft fruits market in the West Midlands but things like potatoes from Egypt, where there is less regulation, can be grown a lot cheaper and therefore our farmers can't compete."