The Local Action on Food network has grown to around 100 members with a good spread around the UK and a diverse mixture of members. The third edition of the network magazine Rhubarb has been published. An event Finding the Plot, on access to land for community groups was held in October in Reading, in partnership with the Women's Environmental Network.
In April the Local Action on Food network launched its new magazine Rhubarb (to download a copy, see http://www.rhubarbmagazine.org/) at the national 'Communities Taking Control' conference, organised by the Plunkett Foundation and with contributions from several Sustain Making Local Food Work staff.
Project officers have also worked with our IT and Communications manager, Gavin Dupee, to comprehensively update our membership systems and databases. This provides robust new systems for handling an increased membership, and we are planning a recruitment drive.
Suzanne has also been exploring what Sustain and the Local Action on Food network could do to promote better local policy on food.
Local Food Links in Dorset have begun developing work with elderly people's services such as lunch clubs and care homes, providing an important way to diversify their work in the public sector. They have also opened a new satellite kitchen which will produce meals for a further eight primary schools in Dorset, raising their total number of meals to over 5,000 per week. Sustain has continued to work with Local Food Links on trying to determine the best way of adapting and using their web-based ordering and invoicing service for the benefit of other community food hubs.
Meanwhile, Food Chain North East have agreed another food growing contract with a community organisation working with people with mental health problems. The project will supply Food Chain with tomatoes, spring cabbage, little gem lettuces and sugar snap peas.
East Anglia Food Links (EAFL) has brokered local supplies of meat and vegetables into a new catering contract with Cambridge University. EAFL has now reached the end of its involvement with Making Local Food Work, and is moving on to develop projects with a care farm, local bread supply chains, community markets and Transition Town initiatives in and around Norfolk and Waveney.
In the last quarter, Sustain's food co-ops project officer Maresa Bossano has:
• Organised a lively and well-received national food co-ops conference.
• Given talks to groups in Crystal Palace and Hackney that are thinking of setting up new food co-ops
• Sent information to groups thinking of setting up food co-ops in Hull, Nottingham, Hebden Bridge, and London
• Provided free marketing materials to 18 existing food co-ops.
• Launched a new food co-ops website (http://www.foodcoops.org/).
• Finalised content for the food co-ops toolkit ready for launching in May. Over recent weeks, project officer Suzanne Natelson has been developing her work on policies to support local and sustainable food systems.
Summer - Winter 2008
The first working party meeting of the newly merged networks (Food Links UK with the Food Access Network) was held on 30 July, at which it was agreed that a new name would be adopted, focusing on local action and community food projects. 'Local Action on Food' will support the work of several networks and interest groups.
The re-arrangements led to the realisation that a new integrated database system was required, to serve the needs of Eat Somerset, the Food Co-ops project, the Real Bread Campaign, London Food Link, Buywell and the Local Action on Food network itself. Gavin has been working extensively with Ben and other project officers to create this new system.
In the final edition (in its current form) of FANMail, the newsletter of the Food Access Network, we consulted with the prospective membership of the new network. This confirmed interest in the first themed seminar of the network, which will focus on food projects and mental health in December. There was interest in future seminars or events on food and social housing, co-ops and food growing.
Making Local Food Work
We continue to engage in several portfolio-wide activities to develop the website, communications, values, evaluation and equal opportunities policy. Sustain's policy director Kath Dalmeny continues to sit on the board.
Project officer Maresa Bossano has been developing links between food co-ops to help people learn from good practice.
In London, Maresa has also worked with Suzanne Natelson, who has been researching food co-ops in London. Research into needs assessment has involved contact with a variety of organisations and national bodies and culminated in a London-wide food co-op training and networking event in October.
Together with Clare Horrell, Maresa met with Local Food Links in Dorset to discuss development of a specialist IT ordering and stock management system.
The second issue of the Food Co-ops newsletter went out to over 100 contacts, and Maresa has distributed about 200 free seasonal food calendars. She has also started to design generic marketing materials that can be used by co-ops and other food projects across England.
Clare has also continued her work with Alison Belshaw of Sustain's Eat Somerset project, analysing the data collected on the distribution paths of Somerset producers. They have now identified two suppliers who Sustain will be working with more closely.
In London, Clare and LFL project officer Suzanne Natelson visited New Spitalfields Market to look into the possibility of supplying a project through the wholesale market. Suzanne has also been developing ideas with LFL colleagues to support more community groups in London in getting access to healthy and sustainable food.
Kath has continued to participate in the Local Foodweb Mapping project coordinated by the Campaign to Protect Rural England as part of the MLFW portfolio.
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