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Local Action on Food updates, 2011

Winter 2011

A Growing Trade is a new report (http://bit.ly/yjkp9v) which documents opportunities for small-scale food growers and community food-growing projects to trade food. This was completed in 2011 and released early in 2012 with very positive coverage in the Independent and elsewhere.

Food supply and Distribution
The majority of project partners in the strand completed their work at the end of September 2011. We held a final meeting of all the project partners in November where the initial conclusions of the strand evaluation were presented. These are that the strand met its objectives in exploring and developing new models for the supply and distribution of local food to a variety of outlets. However, it was noticeable that all the projects struggled to develop outlets in the catering sector and most of the relationships with producers were confined to small-scale growers. There was a recurring theme of a lack of supply of suitable produce, prompting a number of the projects to develop their own food growing capacity. More details from the evaluation will be available in January when the final report is submitted.

Three films looking at the work of a number of projects in the strand were completed and launched www.sustainweb.org/makinglocalfoodwork/films/. These showcase the work of OrganicLea in Walthamstow, Manchester Veg People and Kindling Trust in Manchester, and Food Chain Northeast in Gateshead.

During this quarter we also drafted reports looking at how the small-scale food sector raises finance as well as a report charting our work around developing IT systems for community food organisations and the substantial pitfalls that such systems can be associated with. These reports will be published during the next quarter.

Food Co-ops and Buying Groups
The team of regional food co-ops advisors, with colleagues at the Soil Association that run the buying groups aspects of this work, have given support, advice, training and marketing materials to more than 30 groups this quarter across all of the English regions. They have also helped to arrange a wide variety of events such as:

  • An Open Day at the True Food Co-op in Reading (which won Best Retail Initiative in the Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards in November)
  • Study visits to the long-established workers’ co-operatives Essential Trading and Suma
  • A meeting of the Goodwin Development Trust in Hull.

A particularly productive relationship is with the student sustainability organisation People & Planet, who we have been working with over the past two years. This quarter, we helped organise a workshop and networking event for students at the People & Planet conference in Oxford (also contributed to by Ethical Eats), and this has resulted in requests for Food Co-ops Toolkits and starter packs to set up more student food co-ops.

We have also completed and published two food co-op films highlighting the excellent work of Real Food Exeter, a community-financed shop, and Windmill Community Allotment Project.

To help encourage policies and government advice supportive to co-operative food buying, we have contributed to the new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Buy It Together guide, which makes extensive reference to the Food Co-ops Toolkit.
 


Summer 2011

Rhubarb magazine continues to be printed and circulated to the 180 or so members each quarter, alongside the monthly Rhubarb-e email newsletter, and the website, which is regularly updated with local food articles.
 
We have been building contact with the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and they sent out the network’s Good Planning for Good Food report to their members along with a survey asking questions about the report and interest in food and planning. We have organised a conference together Food and Spatial Planning, to be held on 15 July. There may also be a post-conference publication which will guide planners on issues around food.
 
Local Action on Food is also planning two workshops for primary producers, including community food growers, on how to decide on an appropriate price for their produce. One workshop will be in Manchester in September and the other in London in August. The events will help producers define suitable pricing structures and give them more confidence when selling their produce.

We have been preparing the publication A Growing Trade to explore the potential for community food growing projects to sell their produce and generate income. We are keenly aware that the many food growing projects set up over the past few years through Capital Growth and the Big Lottery’s Local Food Fund will need to start thinking about their long-term viability, some of which will be through generating income. The report is due to be published this summer.


Spring 2011

The Local Action on Food website had a facelift this quarter with new sections profiling the work of members, and other sustainable food work going on across the country. The monthly e-newsletter Rhubarb-e is still being sent out to members and Rhubarb the quarterly printed newsletter is now being stocked by a couple of venues across the country. The network has been providing support for urban food growers that are looking to start trading produce and becoming more economically viable. Work so far has revolved around contacting an existing network of food growing projects that developed from the Getting Down to Business conference and speaking to a wide range of projects about their needs. Plans are underway to run a series of training events in 2011 with the enterprise support strand of MLFW to give basic business skills to people involved in urban community food growing initiatives and to help projects become community enterprises.

Local Action on Food continues to produce the quarterly Rhubarb magazine, and the monthly Rhubarb-e round-up newsletter for network members. The topic for the next edition is ‘The Big Society’ and what it means for the local and sustainable food sector.

In February, we met with representatives of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, which organises the Big Lottery’s Local Food Fund, to develop closer links with their network. We have also been working with Garden Organic, Vegware, and Essential Trading to set up attractive discount deals for Local Action on Food network members. We are planning our next Local Action on Food events and are looking to collaborate on events that are currently being run by Sustain’s regional food co-ops advisors.

On 17 March we organised ‘Growing your own Business’, an event aiming to support more community food growing projects to trade their own produce. The day was organised in partnership with the Enterprise Support strand of the Making Local Food Work programme. The day comprised a series of workshops looking at issues from business planning to the logistics of trading in community-grown food. It was successful in introducing the enterprise approach to a new audience and helping projects to think about the potential for them to operate on this scale.

In parallel to the ‘Growing your own business’ event, we have been undertaking research into the viability of food growing projects making more money from trading their food. A publication is now in preparation, called A Growing Trade, for food growing projects that are interested in selling their produce. We have already published case studies and information on the Local Action on Food website and will develop this further over the coming weeks.  

Food Co-ops and Buying Groups
Thanks to funding from the Daewoo and Sasaka Foundations, staff from the food co-ops project visited Teikei groups, consumer co-ops and organic farmers in Japan in February. A report and selection of case studies will soon be available on the website.

Two food co-ops in each English region that represent a range of different models have been selected to take part in the evaluation of this project. The Centre for Food Policy at City University London has started to contact them to arrange visits.

Sustain regional food co-ops advisors have continued to provide advice and support to new and existing food co-ops and buying groups. These include the Growing Places Enterprise in Ipswich; Poppy’s Pantry in Suffolk and Wakelyns Potato Club in Suffolk.
Our food co-op advisers have also continued to organise regional events and to give talks and workshops at other group’s events.
The past few months have been a busy time for media work. The food co-ops project and website received excellent media coverage, which led to increasing hits on the website and the Food Co-ops Finder online map.

Food Supply and Distribution
This quarter, Sustain has worked with the Hackney-based fruit and vegetable distribution enterprise Growing Communities to help them produce a manual documenting their approach to monitoring and evaluation. Growing Communities are also supporting six other communities around the UK to set up viable community-led trading schemes. It is hoped that some of these groups will start trading by summer 2011, which will test the process of replication.

During February, the food distribution hub based in Gateshead, Food Chain NE, identified a potential new site for their operation: an old school in the West of Newcastle. Food Chain NE is now exploring the possibility of transferring the whole site into the management of the social enterprise under an Asset Transfer arrangement. They are also working with other partners who are interested in taking up space in the premises.

Food and planning
After completing the Good Planning for Good Food report in January, we made contact with the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). We have since sent the report, along with an online questionnaire, to several thousand planners across the UK. We aim to engage them with sustainable food issues and practical steps they can take to help create a healthier and more sustainable food system.

We have been working with a group of organisations interested in integrating climate change mitigation and adaptation into planning policy. The focus this quarter has been on advocating amendments to the Coalition Government’s new Localism Bill.
 


Winter 2010 / Spring 2011

Local Action on Food continues to produce the quarterly Rhubarb magazine, and the monthly Rhubarb-e round-up newsletter for network members. The topic for the next edition is ‘The Big Society’ and what it means for the local and sustainable food sector.
In February, we met with representatives of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, which organises the Big Lottery’s Local Food Fund, to develop closer links with their network. We have also been working with Garden Organic, Vegware, and Essential Trading to set up attractive discount deals for Local Action on Food network members. We are planning our next Local Action on Food events and are looking to collaborate on events that are currently being run by Sustain’s regional food co-ops advisors.

On 17 March we organised ‘Growing your own Business’, an event aiming to support more community food growing projects to trade their own produce. The day was organised in partnership with the Enterprise Support strand of the Making Local Food Work programme. The day comprised a series of workshops looking at issues from business planning to the logistics of trading in community-grown food. It was successful in introducing the enterprise approach to a new audience and helping projects to think about the potential for them to operate on this scale.

In parallel to the ‘Growing your own business’ event, we have been undertaking research into the viability of food growing projects making more money from trading their food. A publication is now in preparation, called A Growing Trade, for food growing projects that are interested in selling their produce. We have already published case studies and information on the Local Action on Food website and will develop this further over the coming weeks.  

Thanks to funding from the Daewoo and Sasaka Foundations, staff from the food co-ops project visited Teikei groups, consumer co-ops and organic farmers in Japan in February. A report and selection of case studies will soon be available on the website.

Two food co-ops in each English region that represent a range of different models have been selected to take part in the evaluation of this project. The Centre for Food Policy at City University London has started to contact them to arrange visits.

Sustain regional food co-ops advisors have continued to provide advice and support to new and existing food co-ops and buying groups. These include the Growing Places Enterprise in Ipswich; Poppy’s Pantry in Suffolk and Wakelyns Potato Club in Suffolk.
Our food co-op advisers have also continued to organise regional events and to give talks and workshops at other group’s events.
The past few months have been a busy time for media work. The food co-ops project and website received excellent media coverage, which led to increasing hits on the website and the Food Co-ops Finder online map.

Food Supply and Distribution
This quarter, Sustain has worked with the Hackney-based fruit and vegetable distribution enterprise Growing Communities to help them produce a manual documenting their approach to monitoring and evaluation. Growing Communities are also supporting six other communities around the UK to set up viable community-led trading schemes. It is hoped that some of these groups will start trading by summer 2011, which will test the process of replication.

During February, the food distribution hub based in Gateshead, Food Chain NE, identified a potential new site for their operation: an old school in the West of Newcastle. Food Chain NE is now exploring the possibility of transferring the whole site into the management of the social enterprise under an Asset Transfer arrangement. They are also working with other partners who are interested in taking up space in the premises.

After completing the Good Planning for Good Food report in January, we made contact with the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). We have since sent the report, along with an online questionnaire, to several thousand planners across the UK. We aim to engage them with sustainable food issues and practical steps they can take to help create a healthier and more sustainable food system.
We have been working with a group of organisations interested in integrating climate change mitigation and adaptation into planning policy. The focus this quarter has been on advocating amendments to the Coalition Government’s new Localism Bill.
 


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