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2011 updates on food supply and distribution

Winter 2011

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.


Autumn 2011

The majority of funding for the project partners in the strand ends in September 2011 with only small amounts of work continuing into the next quarter. Much of our time in this last quarter has been spent collating quantitative and qualitative data to feed into the evaluation of the strand. The first draft of the evaluation report is expected in November 2011.
 


Summer 2011

Highlights from this quarter include the following:

  • Colne Valley Food in a greenbelt area of Hillingdon in West London launched their online box scheme using the newly created IT system developed with Sustain’s support
  • Three of Growing Communities’ start-up projects will launch before the end of June, running economically viable sustainable food trading schemes following the Growing Communities model
  • Manchester Veg People, the growers and buyers co-operative that Sustain supports through this strand, started supplying the University of Manchester with fresh produce
  • A new report reviewing the first 10 years of Local Food Links in Bridport, Dorset, and written by its former director Tim Crabtree, was published, see http://bit.ly/iOxDIt

We have started development of three short films showcasing some of our projects. We are hoping to complete the filming over the summer. We will make the films available online to inform and inspire others considering engaging in similar work.

We have also started researching the ways in which micro- and small-scale food organisations raise finance. This will include an exploration of what needs to happen to support the sector financially and help it grow, and we aim to publish our findings in a report that will be released during the autumn.

Working with the Food Co-ops and Buying Groups strand, we are surveying groups that are using three of the most often used or most user-friendly online ordering systems currently available. This work will be published in a report giving the pros and cons of each system that groups can use to decide which if any would be suitable for their needs. As some of the systems are still being developed and tested it is expected that the final report will not be ready until early 2012.


Spring 2011

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.

Local Action on Food network
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. 


Winter 2010 / Spring 2011

Organic Lea (Walthamstow, East London), the Glazebury food growers co-operative and Colne Valley Food have continued to run and expand their schemes this quarter. Three new projects have also started in this strand:

  • A new phase of work for Food Chain NE to look at strategic business planning and to investigate developing this enterprise.
  • The Manchester Organic Growers project will increase the supply of organic produce that is in season locally, and influence a range of buyers to become more sustainable.
  • The Growing Communities Start-up Programme (based in Hackney) has created a training and mentoring system.

We have also been co-ordinating a series of meetings with local authorities about their food work. The boroughs network is a sub group of the London Food Board which helps local authorities shape food-related work in their borough and provides advice on how they can implement the London Food Strategy. This quarter’s meeting focused on local food strategies, and the next, in January, is on procurement.
 
Planning report
The report Good Planning for Good Food was sent out in November for consultation and comments to around 50 experts including local planners, academics, and professionals who work in the sustainable food movement. We are aiming to publish the final report in January or February.
 
In October we presented the work on planning and food systems at the AESOP 2nd Annual Conference on Food and Planning. An article based on our presentation will be published by Wageningen Academic Publishers in a peer-reviewed book.
 
We also contributed a session to a new course at Wageningen University on food and cities.

Local Action on Food network
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.


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