Campaigner calls for increased use of local food
A local campaigner has proposed increasing the use of local food in Jesmond-based restaurants, homes and schools.
The most recent Transition Jesmond meeting conducted by Ruth Hayward on November 21st regarding food systems and sustainability was well received by Jesmond residents. Hayward has a degree in plant biology and a recent masters in economics.
“Alternative food distribution systems give people increased access to local food. It can give people more of a connection to the surrounding countryside, to the growers, and it is good tohave that connection to know where your food comes from,” Hayward said.
Local food not only has a community benefit, but an economic one too. Based on the findings from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), sales of local produce through local outlets in 747 towns and cities across England create a turnover of £2.7 billion a year.
The potential contribution of local food businesses to regional economies across Britain has been realised gradually. More practical developments are expected from her introduction to the food system in Jesmond – and attention should not only be focused on producing food locally, but how food is used.
Hayward commented on food waste: 4.2 million tons of household food and drink are still wasted throughout UK annually based on the WRAP research in 2012, “It is not so much about what we grow, it’s about how we distribute it and not waste it.”
Many organisations worldwide and locally are committed to changing our food systems, Hayward noted. One individual, Oliver De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, has placed the smart use of locally-grown food at the forefront of the UN’s plans to tackle global poverty.
La Via Campesina, an international peasant’s movement that aims to defend food sovereignty by ensuring locals are capable of providing food for their own community in a sustainable way. La Via Campesina acts according to six key principles: focusing on food for people, valuing food providers, localising the food system, making decisions locally on food, building knowledge and skills related to food, and working with nature.
Locally the Newcastle Food Charter promotes health and wellbeing in Newcastle by ensuring good food for all, fairness in the food chain, a sustainable food system and a sense of community in food preparation – all of which aim to strengthen the local economy. Hayward would like to see Jesmond residents interacting with the Newcastle Food Charter to improve the current status quo in Jesmond.
Some shops and restaurants in Jesmond place a high priority on sourcing local food. Jam Jar, the Osborne Road bar and restaurant, cooks meals with produce from within a small radius of 20 miles of the restaurant, supporting local businesses and the local economy. Jam Jar’s Josh Rose says sourcing locally “gives our customers confidence in knowing they are eating good quality local produce with a limited carbon foot print on the environment”. Many businesses struggle to source local food economically, however, including national supermarkets with branches in Jesmond.
People enjoy high-quality and convenient access to their food, as well as services such as free car parking. Supermarket supply chains often operate on a national or international, rather than local or regional, level. Yet Hayward emphasized the importance of constructing a sustainable local network. Supermarket support would help to reveal the visibility of local food, and have a positive impact higher up the food chain.
“This could potentially open up opportunity for people to enter that as a career.” Hayward added, “it changes the policy around the planting to help that really go down the line, but this is the first step.”
With additional reporting from Samantha Killebrew