“The enthusiastic backing of a local authority can make all the difference to the success or otherwise of a market and the farmers they support. Market organisers need help with practical issues such as access to land, signage, promotion to local residents and a helpful approach by local trading standards and environmental health officers.”
Cheryl Cohen, London Farmers’ Markets, and member of the London Food Board
Some people in London do not have easy access to good quality, affordable and healthy food, either due to a lack of food shops, or due to poor quality and/or high prices in local shops. At the same time there are often excessive numbers of hot food takeaway outlets concentrated in poorer areas of London. These not only deprive local communities of a varied choice of food but also contribute to health inequalities, create litter and play a role in reducing the quality of the local environment.
Initiatives such as Buywell and Change4Life have been working successfully with neighbourhood food retailers to advise them on stocking and selling more and better quality fresh fruit and vegetables, often with the support of local health authorities. Activities have included improving store layout, creating attractive produce displays and running events with local schools. This kind of business support should be offered by more boroughs.
A number of local authorities, including Waltham Forest and Barking and Dagenham, have also taken steps to control the numbers of hot food takeaways through the planning system (see www.sustainweb.org/localactiononfood/policies_affecting_local_action_on_food). This provides welcome support for teachers and parents in helping children to eat more healthily.
“We’d love to see more caterers and local authorities using the best of fresh, British and seasonal produce, as well as food grown to high ethical and environmental standards. London 2012 is showing it can be done. Now it's up to all of us to help producers of good food make better connections with caterers and events organisers.”
Helen Evans, New Covent Garden Market Authority, Association of London Markets, and member of the London Food Board
Local authority support for street markets, wholesale markets and farmers’ markets is also beneficial, to ensure a diversity of outlets, including opportunities for farmers to provide food to urban outlets and customers.
Farmers’ markets provide a vital opportunity for people to connect with where their food comes from (www.lfm.org.uk). Street markets make cheap food accessible and are also a low-cost way for food producers to test their products and get direct feedback from customers, so can help develop small businesses (www.nabma.com). Wholesale markets are also a valuable customer and distributor for farmers, as the Business Development Manager project (www.foodforlondon.net) has shown, creating millions of pounds’ of new opportunities for British farmers and sustainable food producers.
Helping markets to promote better access to fruit and veg
An easy way for London Boroughs to promote healthier food is to make better use of something they already do – licensing street markets and street trading pitches for the sale of fresh fruit and vegetables. Promoting access to – and consumption of – affordable fruit and vegetables is a key way to help more people achieve their five-a-day target, and hence help improve their diets and health.
Surveys carried out by the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA) show that the stalls that shoppers most commonly use and value are those selling fruit and vegetables. The quality is good, the price is good and people don’t have to drive miles to find them. This helps to achieve both health and transport objectives of local authorities, as well as fitting with the new London planning agenda of lifetime neighbourhoods (see good food planning section, below).
So how do London Boroughs compare with regards their support for fruit and vegetable pitches in street markets? Data is not yet available for all boroughs, but in this report we wanted to give a snapshot of the approach being taken by Boroughs to promoting fresh fruit and vegetables through support for street markets. That is the thinking behind the “Boroughs Fruit & Vegetable Pitch-days Project” being coordinated by the National Association of British Market Authorities. This takes what most Boroughs are already doing and uses a simple formula to help compare access to fruit and vegetables across London Boroughs. All each participating Borough has to do is to count how many days their fruit and vegetable pitches trade over a year. We then calculated how many fruit and vegetable pitch-days are available across the borough per 10,000 head of population.
A number of Boroughs have already submitted their returns, and these will shortly be built into a Borough Map (as shown in the maps at the beginning of this report), to give a fruit and vegetable access indicator for London.
|London Borough||Fruit and vegetable pitch days per 10,000 population|
|Hammersmith & Fulham||276|
|Kensington & Chelsea||408|
“If people want to eat cheaply, eat healthily, cut down on their travel costs and support their neighbourhood I can’t think of a better way of doing it than buying fresh fruit and vegetables from their local street market. The London Boroughs should be doing all they can to improve access to fresh produce via their markets and street trading pitches.”
Krys Zasada, Policy Development Manager, National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA), and member of the London Food Board