The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) today publish six location reports showing the scale and impact of local food webs in towns and cities across England.These reports are the first part of extensive research into how local food shapes and benefits local communities, economies and the countryside.
The results show that local food webs can deliver a wide range of important social, economic and environmental benefits. The six reports from pilot locations published today are: Birstall, Hastings, Kenilworth, Knutsford, Sheffield and Totnes.
Graeme Willis, Senior Local Food Campaigner at CPRE, says: “The new Field to Fork reports are the first findings from research into food webs across England. Before now these intricate networks have been below the radar of most decision makers. As a result there has been very little policy locally or nationally that supports local food.
“The research shows that food webs can deliver a wide range of benefits for communities and their livelihoods, the places where they live and nearby countryside. These include better access to fresh food, supporting local businesses, and adding diversity and character to towns and rural areas. Local food webs play a valuable role by connecting people, through shops and markets, to their wider community and to the surrounding countryside.”
CPRE’s research, undertaken as part of Making Local Food Work, a nationwide programme funded by the Big Lottery Fund, suggests the continuing expansion of main large supermarkets could further undermine the viability of smaller local independent shops which provide vital markets for local producers and offer shoppers easy access to fresh local food. Many smaller retailers interviewed for this research stocked 50 per cent or more local produce whereas most supermarkets typically stock only one to two per cent local food. Without these smaller outlets local producers would struggle to survive.
Graeme Willis concluded: “Local food webs rely on a diverse system of outlets, as well as public support. If these networks are allowed to break down, it could lead to a loss of jobs, loss of diversity in our high streets and loss of local distinctiveness. This pattern has sadly been all too familiar in recent years.
“In many areas we are already far down the road to a supermarket monoculture. This is not good for local food and it’s not good for consumer choice. By identifying local food webs and making them more visible to policy and decision makers, we hope they will be better protected, better supported and can thrive in the future.”