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Sustain / Making Local Food Work / Archive: Food distribution updates

2008 updates on food supply and distribution

Winter 2008/09

Clare Horrell, the Food Supply and Distribution project officer, held the first meeting for the projects who we are hoping will be part of the pilot web-based ordering and invoicing system designed by Local Food Links (Bridport). We are delighted to report that Bridport has been given the first Gold Award under the Soil Association's Food for Life programme, meaning that at least 50% of school meals ingredients are made from locally grown food.

Clare has been to visit a couple of “hub-like” projects around the country. One is an internet-based retail shop, and it was interesting to note that the owners placed great importance on controlling variable costs to maintain their long-term viability. They do this using a sophisticated system which integrates their ordering and invoicing. This system is very similar to the one that is being developed with Bridport, and which is planned to be “open source” (ie available for wide use without restrictive intellectual property controls).

Through Kath's involvement with Growing Communities in north London as a Trustee, we are also exploring how MLFW might be able to support this innovative community food enterprise, which has recently been awarded an UnLtd social enterprise grant to help with replication. Kath Dalmeny, who is policy director of Sustain, is also working closely with the Growing Communities team to help them refine the model of what works, and to help design a programme of replication.

Food distribution in London
To support sustainable food supply and distribution activities in London, Suzanne has been researching possible policies that might be useful. This quarter she has attended several meetings to help inform this work, including with academics from the Open University who are researching policies that could support alternative food networks. A draft document outlining the key regional and local policy processes is in preparation.

Media coverage
Sustain's policy director Kath Dalmeny wrote an article on Local Food, Local Wealth, for New Sector magazine, a copy of which can be downloaded here.


Autumn 2008

Working with local partners
Sustain project officer Clare Horrell continues to work with local partner organisations to develop their work on sustainable supply and distribution of local food, with activities as follows:

  • Local Food Links (Bridport, Dorset) have been contracted to supply school meals to a further four schools. Unfortunately, they report a slight drop in take-up of school meals at the existing schools they supply, in the recent economic downturn. However they are continuing to develop other markets – care homes and lunch clubs are promising. They have continued to test an IT ordering and invoicing system which Sustain hopes to use with other projects across Making Local Food Work over the next six months.
  • Organic Lea, (Walthamstow, East London) have launched a vegetable box scheme and have worked with twenty local growers and volunteers to pick and scrump apples growing around the borough.
  • East Anglia Food Links (EAFL) have completed research into opportunities for brokering local food into commercial supply chains. They conclude that most opportunities are exhausted. Other opportunities may exist in bringing together producers and community food initatives to create clusters of people with a strong commitment to sustainability.
  • Community Food Enterprise (CFE – Newham, East London) have begun to discuss marketing ideas for fruit and vegetable promotion to local businesses, and have commissioned upgrade work on their cold store to allow greater volumes of produce to be stored. The challenge remains to identify small-scale producers in willing to supply small volume amounts at a price that a food access project can afford.
  • Food Chain North East have become the first project in the strand to agree a growing contract with a producer for next year – a method of guaranteeing produce for the project, and a fair income for the farmer.

Food distribution in the southwest
For the southwest, 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. Based on the results of this work, they have now identified two suppliers who Sustain will be working with more closely to try to improve their distribution efficiency. A summary of findings from the food distribution mapping study can be downloaded here.

Food distribution in London
In London, Clare and London Food Link project officer Suzanne Natelson visited New Spitalfields Market to look into the possibility of supplying Community Food Enterprise through the wholesale market, to make good use of CFE’s new cold storage facility refurbished with the MLFW grant. Suzanne has also been developing ideas with London Food Link colleagues to help more community groups in London buy more healthy and sustainable food.

Summer 2008

Newham and East Anglia
London Food Link’s work on this strand has involved working with project partners East Anglia Food Links and Community Food Enterprise (CFE, Newham) to collect food prices on a weekly basis, and developing an options paper to prompt discussion on how affordable local food can be supplied to CFE. Follow-up work will carry on in early July with a meeting with CFE’s wholesalers at New Spitalfields wholesale market in East London to discuss next steps. 

Developing new markets
A number of the local food distribution hubs (project partners in the Food Supply & Distribution strand) have made progress on establishing new connections with local producers and developing new markets. Sustain project officer Clare Horrell, who co-ordinates this aspect, reports that the highlights this quarter have been the extension of Local Food Links’ (Bridport, Dorset) cooked school meal deliveries from 3 to 5 days per week. Over 50 per cent of the produce used in the school meals comes from within 10 miles of the project. Food Chain North East has also signed a contract with a local supplier to provide their project with rhubarb and gooseberries.

Keeping on track
All individual partners’ “milestones” have been reviewed and their project plans and budgets finalised to the end of year one of the programme which concludes on 30 September 2008. We have undertaken some research on different distribution models and initial data has been collected for joint activity with Sustain’s Eat Somerset project on distribution mapping of suppliers in Somerset.


Spring 2008

This strand is coordinated by Sustain project officer Clare Horrell, who joined Sustain in February.

Visits, planning and reporting
Clare has met with all five of the local ‘food hub’ projects that are involved in the Food Supply & Distribution strand. She has spent time analysing their workplans and budgets and working with them to update and agree their targets for the first year. Time has also been spent working through the process of drawing down capital funding for the projects.

On 10 April, Sustain's Making Local Food project officers - Maresa, Clare and Suzanne - held a networking session for all of local delivery partner projects involved with Making Local Food Work activities. This helped to identify links and common interests amongst the projects.

Newham and East Anglia
Sustain project officer Suzanne Natelson has worked with Community Food Enterprise in Newham (CFE) and East Anglia Food Links (EAFL) to help them develop plans concerning supply of produce, purchasing of capital items and developing CFE’s marketing strategy. 

National learning programme 
Clare attended and helped out at the Eat Somerset Distribution Workshop organised by Sustain project officer Alison Belshaw. She will be working with Alison to use the information gathered at the workshop to map local supplier distribution routes in Somerset. Alison and Clare hope that the mapping project will create a database that will help local producers improve the efficiency of their distribution. It will also be useful as a case study to show how distribution paths work (or often don’t!)

A volunteer started work with Clare in April and will initially be researching how local food gets distributed to different types of customers around the country. Their aim is to build a database of case studies of good practice, identify the barriers to successful distribution, and use this information to develop a series of workshops and seminars in the second year of the project.

Making Local Food Work: Making Local Food Work aimed to reconnect people and land through local food by increasing access to fresh, healthy, local food with clear, traceable origins.

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