2009 updates on food supply and distribution
Following an assessment of six new hubs applying to be part of the Food Supply and Distribution project, two have been agreed and formally accepted by the Big Lottery. Preparations are well advanced for the Community Food Hubs: Exploring ideas and practice conference in Manchester in November that will cover areas such as small-scale distribution, analysing food hubs, exploring the tension between social and commercial work, managing costs, using IT systems and influencing food policy.
A specialist IT company was recruited to work with local food hubs, to help them introduce more effective systems to manage their food ordering and accounts. The first two pilot projects began trialling the ordering and invoicing web-based system in August and demonstrations have been given to two further projects.
Three case studies have also been prepared by Sustain, sharing what we have learnt from the project partners that have completed their work. They are:
Building a Sustainable Food Hub, which covers:
- Adding value through catering services
- Distribution of surplus from allotments
- Supplying food access projects
- An investigation into the workings of small scale food hubs: An analysis of 11 small scale food hubs, exploring their synergies, differences, issues and challenges.
Local food and the planning system
We are also examining how to influence and change the planning system so that food can be routinely incorporated into strategic planning on a national, regional and local level. We are looking at how to use the planning system to encourage more food growing and more fresh food retail, especially in “food desert” areas, and also restrict the growth of fast-food takeaways. So far four consultation responses have been submitted by Sustain and a position paper is being developed. See these documents on the separate Food and Planning web page.
A number of case studies sharing the learning from the project have been produced. These explore different elements of building a sustainable community food hub and look at some of the challenges and successes that they face. In particular, they look at issues around supplying food access projects using the experiences of Community Food Enterprise and Food Chain North East; OrganicLea's scheme which distributes surplus from allotments; and Local Food Links work adding value through catering services. In addition, working with researchers from the University of Glamorgan an investigation was carried out into the workings of 11 small scale food hubs.
OrganicLea's new refurbished cafe has re-opened for 4 days a week and as well as offering wholesome healthy food, also acts as a venue for training workshops and events around growing, cooking and eating. Their Cropshare scheme which distributes surplus produce from local gardeners and allotment holders through the cafe, box scheme and stall has also gone from strength to strength and now has produce from 15 local growers.
A 3 month trial of a web-based ordering and invoicing system has started with 3 projects aiming to help them streamline their procedures and give them the possibility of processing more orders.
Food Chain North East have agreed another growing contract with a local producer. This will provide the project with enough broccoli, swede and cauliflowers for all its vegetable bags in this quarter, up to Christmas 2009.
In addition, we commissioned a report from the Ethical Eats project, examining the case for a local food hub in London to supply smaller food outlets, restaurants and community-based projects. This involved a workshop involving representatives from each stage in the existing supply chain including wholesale suppliers, wholesale markets, local producers, chefs, restaurateurs and delivery companies. London’s existing food supply system “from farm to restaurant fork” was discussed, as were the problems associated with this supply chain and the possible areas where improvements could be made. One outcome of the workshop was formation of a small group of restaurants in and around Clerkenwell, North East London, who wanted to address the issues raised in the workshop and see if they could do something to change the way their existing supply chain worked. The results of the workshop and pilot of collaborative purchasing are contained in the report. See: Joining the Dots: Collaborative food buying and sustainable distribution for London restaurants: A case study.
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.