News Coronavirus Food Alert

ACTION - Ask your local council to keep food markets open – we need them more than ever

Up and down the country, food market stalls, street markets and farmers' markets have shut up shop in response to COVID-19.

Please take action now

Tragically some food markets have shut because landlords are understandably worried about people gathering uncontrollably or footfall being too low to be financially viable. Food markets offer absolutely vital access to affordable produce, and livelihoods for smaller traders and producers, and closing them exacerbates the strain on supermarkets and on other forms of Government support. We believe that where possible, food markets should be re-opened as soon as possible, and/or supported to stay open and successful.


Food markets can stay open

They have been declared an essential service by the Government, and we are seeing fantastic examples of markets being operated safely and responsibly, seeing good turnout, and helping to keep small businesses going through this crisis, like those in Preston, Leeds, Oxford, HullHackney and many more.

We need your help

1. Please copy and paste this letter (or write your own) and email your local councillor. We know this is a busy time for Local Authorities but this simple action will to keep food accessible and support small businesses at this incredibly difficult time. There’s a list of all Councillors in the UK in this very helpful database. To find their email, you will need to check your own council website.

2. Tweet your council using the hashtag #KeepMarketsOpen - here are a couple of examples. Check whether your markets are open or not and then choose the appropriate message

Hi @[Council name] - our local food market is wonderful - please re-open it, with safe social distancing and signage. Support our local businesses #KeepMarketsOpen @UKSustain

Markets selling food *can* stay open and they should - @[COUNCIL] please support and publicise our local businesses staying open #KeepMarketsOpen @UKSustain

3. Share examples of really good food markets that are staying open with good social distancing in place and use the hashtag #KeepMarketsOpen, so we can share and celebrate.


I’m getting in touch regarding our local market [INSERT NAME], which I would urge you to support staying open or re-opening to help feed our local area during this crisis.

The markets not only provide food and other essentials for those who may not be able to afford or access it elsewhere, they also provide an income for small businesses. Without markets, both of these groups would put further strain either on government or charity support - including the services run by the Council - or on supermarket supply.

The official government advice is that food markets can stay open [1]. I would urge you to do the following to help ensure this can happen:

  • Permit markets to remain open where that is in your control
  • Circulate guidance about social distancing and safety
  • Ensure that markets have the resources they need, including refuse collection, signage on social distancing, tape, traffic cones and barriers if needed
  • Use your social media and communications channels to let residents know that markets are still open. 

Clearly markets must make every effort to ensure that Government advice on health and safety and social distancing are followed – and guidance, capacity and support should be given to market holders to do this.

Support on good market practice is available from the following sources:

  • NMTF (the national body for market street traders) have produced guidance for all market operators and traders 
  • NAMBA (National Association of British Markets) have launched an information page for market updates on the latest guidance and announcements and have published their position here
  • FRA (The Farm Retail Association) have published guidance written by Growing Communities on running a market safely 
  • Farm Retail Association can support markets who may be considering online orders/delivery services. Please connect with them on Facebook for a helpful support pack
  • Sustain coordinates pages updating links to all the advice above for markets, along with other advice on the food response to Covid-19.                    

In some local areas, markets are now reopening where they have put the right systems and support in place, and clearly communicating the status of the market via local channels so residents know that they can shop there.

If I can help you to support the market, please let me know.



Councillors and Council Staff

Thank you for keeping markets open, or re-opening markets to support your local community and small businesses, and for keeping people safe.

Councils can help by:

  • Permitting markets to remain open where that is in your control
  • Circulating guidance about social distancing and safety
  • Ensuring that markets have the resources they need, including refuse collection, signage on social distancing, tape, traffic cones and barriers if needed
  • Using your social media and communications channels to let residents know that markets are still open

Please let us know what you are doing, so we can share and promote, or use your social media channels to inform residents about your actions, using the hashtag #KeepMarketsOpen


Find out more about why food markets need to stay open to help us through this crisis.

We have compiled links to guidance for traders and those supporting them in this crisis.

Market Operators - The National Association of British Market Authorities is calling for business support for markets, but they need to know what issues you are facing - please complete their survey

If you have information to share on this theme, please write to:


Published Tuesday 21 April 2020

Coronavirus Food Alert: Sustain's work on food resilience in the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.We are helping secure food for vulnerable people and supporting local emergency responses.

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