The Local Action on Food network continues to grow, and is focusing on events and activities to support local food projects around the country. Two events are planned for 2010. The first, Getting Down to Business: How to make your community food growing project economically viable took place on 25 June at SOAS University in partnership with their Food Studies Centre. Around 170 people attended, bringing together Local Action on Food members and community food groups from across the country to hear stimulating presentations and discuss issues such as growing, selling, diversifying income and engaging the community. Speakers included a wide range of practitioners already achieving a good level of economic viability through trading.
The second event is planned for September in Bristol, and will focus on how food organisations can increase financial viability by trading and other means, examining various elements of finance such as funding, raising shares and commerce. There will also be opportunities for networking and showcasing food produced by participating organisations. Download a flier here.
Other plans for developing the network include revamping the website, working with member organisations such as Garden Organic to create reciprocal membership deals for members, and developing more events. We are also planning the first edition of the revised Rhubarb-e, the e-newsletter for the network, and there was a successful stall at the Real Food Festival in May.
The Local Action on Food Network has been running for one year and work is underway to revamp the network and bring in new recruits, and to make our communication materials as useful, attractive and inspiring as possible. The network recently conducted a members’ survey, and plans include making the website a one-stop shop for information about local food projects, and having a big membership drive at the Real Food Festival in May.
Local Action on Food is also planning to hold a national urban agriculture conference this summer focused on economic viability. There are plans for at least two more local food events, one of which is likely to be in September, and will focus on achieving greater financial resilience for local and community food projects.
Local Action on Food activities
Membership of the Local Action on Food Network is growing and stands at 180. An innovative membership deal with The National Trust saw 30 properties being signed up to the network and we are hoping to replicate this with similar organisations in the coming year.
In November there was a very successful event on community food hubs in Manchester (see Food Supply and Distribution report, below). This, and the event in September were successful in attracting new members and raising the profile of the network in different parts of the country.
As part of exciting new plans for 2010, we have been developing projects with local authorities and social housing providers as part of the events programme for the Local Action on Food network. Watch this space!
Food co-ops support
Printed versions of the food co-ops toolkit have been sent to around twenty groups including food co-ops and organisations that help support them. Contact has been made with Unicorn Grocery and the Growing Communities replication project in Hastings to help them develop toolkits based on their models.
We helped organise an event at New Covent Garden wholesale market in partnership with the Business Development Manager which was attended by employees and volunteers from existing and potential food co-ops from across London. We also gave a presentation at the Shoots Food Club volunteer away day about project sustainability which was attended by about twenty volunteers from the food co-ops around St Helens in Merseyside.
A student food co-ops campaign is being planned and a fact sheet has been prepared on setting up food co-ops in universities. We also met with the National Union of Students and People and Planet, the student group that campaigns on world poverty and the environment, to discuss working with them on their Degrees Cooler climate change programme.
A MLFW networking event was held in Brighton which was attended by over twenty workers involved in supporting local food projects across the South East. We also met with Slow Food UK to explore linking with their local groups.
Finally, the first stage of the Food Co-ops and Buying Groups evaluation contract was awarded to the Centre for Food Policy at City University and meetings have been held with them to discuss planned activities.
Local food systems and planning
We co-ordinated and wrote responses to various planning consultations including the London Plan, the Tower Hamlets Core Strategy, and the London Assembly Planning and Housing Committee Reviews on Commercial Agriculture around London, and Neighbourhood Retail in London. We also participated in developing draft guidance for a new planning policy on climate change with a coalition of NGOs, which now mentions the importance of planning for a sustainable food system.
Working with the Government Office for London we have contacted local authorities in London to find out what they are doing on sustainable food in their area.
Food Supply and Distribution
Two new projects have now been approved by the Big Lottery to join the Food Supply and Distribution strand. The first is Colne Valley Food based in London’s Green Belt. This scheme will explore how a visitor centre can act as a hub for re-engaging people with their food.
The second project is Glazebury, a food growing project linked to the Unicorn Grocery workers’ co-operative in Manchester. As well as supplying Unicorn, Glazebury will also supply the wholesaler, Organic North. This will give the MLFW programme the possibility of exploring a new type of relationship between growing, wholesale and retail based on principles of social enterprise.
Following a tendering process, the University of Glamorgan has been appointed as the external evaluator for the Food Supply and Distribution project. They will be visiting all of the local projects over the next quarter.
The Community Food Hubs conference was held in Manchester on 9 November and proved very popular. Over 75 people attended, mainly from community-based organisations. The conference focused on sharing what we have learnt so far, along with presentations highlighting successes as well as the issues that they have faced in trying to create community-based models for reconnecting people with their food. Conference presentations can be downloaded on the Making Local Food Work website.
We have also been supporting the sustainable food social enterprise Growing Communities, from Hackney, North London. They are currently developing plans for a national replication programme, and Sustain has been helping with developing communication materials.
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