Championing local

Food security

I hope you don’t mind me contributing from France but it is relevant I hope. I live in rural Dordogne, have a large vegetable garden and am surrounded by others in the same situation plus buy most of what I can’t grow from a local market.
Conserving for the winter is still a tradition in this poor, mostly agricultural area. Home grown produce is widely shared here and it is not unknown for my acupuncturist husband to be paid in vegetables, wine, cider, pâté, meat etc. Food and its production is front and centre to life here and just about everyone has a bit of independence in that respect either because they grow themselves or someone in the family does.
During the lockdown, I was an observer to my daughter’s experience of food shopping during the lockdown. She and her family live in North Yorkshire. She has always shopped not just at the supermarket but at an organic loose whole foods outlet, a greengrocer selling locally grown produce and a butcher. She is highly motivated in terms of finding good quality, organic and/or locally produced food. They are not wealthy. They eat very little meat. The butcher provides food for their dog. What was interesting is how the sources she used became overwhelmed with demand as the supermarkets bowed under the strain. Not surprising perhaps but if those sources had not been available putting food on the table would have been much more of a challenge. The greengrocer who sold locally grown vegetables took on more customers than they had ever had before and struggled to get all the orders fulfilled to the point that they had to put in place an order cut off point earlier and earlier in the week so as to not be overwhelmed. A local farm based café started doing vegetable boxes for their regular customers including eggs and dairy products and eggs and were also nearly overwhelmed. I had recently given my daughter my bread maker but flour quickly became difficult to find. When she could source it she made bread for them and for her neighbour. A friend shared rhubarb. A local group on Facebook was quickly set up as a community group to support those in need for whatever reason. This was very successful as were other organisations which existed before Covid to feed people suffering from food poverty in their town. Local independent restaurants and the Facebook group and other actors mobilised in a very impressive way to support the community and continue to do so.
The bedrock of food security is local production. During the lockdown in the U.K. the government essentially handed responsibility for the maintenance of food provision over to the food industry who did a good job to keep the supply lines open. This is not going to be possible after 31 December if there is no deal with the EU and when the new tariffs and customs arrangements come in and the just in time delivery system no longer exists. I am extremely worried about food security in the U.K. from that date. The whole issue of food security needs to be urgently addressed on so many levels that it makes my head spin. The public needs educating about nutrition and food production, children need to learn food growing skills in primary school, local authorities need to release land for allotments for those who want them. Towns need local farms to supply them. Cities need urban farms and rooftop horticulture as can be found in countless cities around the world. Planning for new builds should include common ground in a development for food production (a dream I know).
Food production (and therefore food security) has to change radically in the U.K. Moves to start these changes should have been initiated as soon as the U.K. voted to leave.
And I haven’t even started on how this all affects or is affected by the climate crisis!
I’m off to bottle some more tomatoes …..
Selena Hinds