Local farm shops across North East Wales saw a dramatic increase in business during lockdown. This video shows how people chose to shop locally due to safety or lack of supermarket slots.
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 …..
I live in Chagford on Dartmoor Devon and once a week collect my box of assorted organic vegetables, it’s as exciting as christmas was as a child wondering what will be in the box this week.
The business is called Chagfood, they are wonderful growers and by their actions make many people happy, healthy and grateful.
Most members of my family live quite far apart, and during lockdown we were looking for fun online activities. I live in Chester, my parents and my brother live in different parts of France and my auntie and uncle live in Devon. Lockdown was particularly strict for my brother and sister-in-law in Paris, so we were also trying to find something that would cheer them up. We’re all enthusiastic cooks, and at my mum’s suggestion, we decided to hold a Friday night cook-off. It seemed like a bit of an odd idea as we wouldn’t be able to taste each other’s food, but we took turns to choose a theme, posted a photo in our group chat and then ate together online. We initially tried to judge/mark the dishes but quickly forgot the competition element because we were enjoying each other’s company. The theme and the food also provided lots of conversation starters, which was particularly welcome after Zoom-fatigue started to set in. We’ve talked about family traditions, meals we remember, things our grandmother made, places we’ve visited and what we ate, how we make things and if it differs to the way we were taught.
I live alone, and despite being happy in my own company, sharing a meal with my family was a big treat. I’ve made things that I wouldn’t usually have bothered to make just for me, it’s given me joy, a few kitchen dilemmas and as we’d hoped, something to look forward to during lockdown. I shared our dishes on Facebook and several friends started similar events with their own families. Our categories were ‘savoury tart’, ‘curry’, ‘potato-topped pie’, ‘tapas’, ‘local/regional’, ‘offal’, ‘tagine’ and ‘cheese’ In July we decided to stop meeting weekly as people started to have ‘real-life’ plans again, but have decided to meet once a month. Our first monthly meeting was on 1st August and included our first sweet round, ‘dessert’, our next one is in early September and the theme is ‘harvest’.
Wrights Food Emporium in LLanarthne @wrightsfood is run by Simon Wright and his wife MaryAnn they, together with their team, are truly inspirational. During lockdown they diversified their business model into selling food online for collection, which included dishes that had been made by them, with local delicious ingredients that you could take away. Not being near enough I relished their weekly recipes that took you on a virtual journey to places that they had visited. Beautifully illustrated by @leighsinclair they were visually beautiful as well as delicious. This is my attempt at their beetroot and feta dip so earthy and fresh truly wonderful. Each week I tuned in to their Instagram Live feed known as Elevenses- in which Simon interviewed interesting figures from the food world, which included chefs, writers and campaigners. I urge you to watch them. They have now reopened working with the guidelines so if you are near by I urge you to call them and see if you too can experience a little bit of their magic. Simon has aslo turned his hand to campaigning launching the Welsh Independent Collective @w_i_r_c on Insta giving the voice of the independent eatery in Wales the one they deserve. Truly inspirational.
A keen member of Slow Food I used the timing of lockdown to exploit my very local food resource, our allotment.
Producing tasty, nutritious meals is always a challenge, and even more so under lockdown where the 5 mile rule for travel reduced access to our usual butcher and dairy – we drink raw milk.
However, the additional time that had been created allowed the chance to research online suppliers of ethical and organic meat and milk along with Port to Plate Fish Supplies.
In reality, though, it was the timing in March that helped most, as our allotment was just coming into delivery mode and fresh vegetables with a food distance of 150 yards provided fresh, seasonal and very local food. Eggs from a fellow allotment holder made a regular appearance too.
Luckily the ‘Hungry Gap’ was ending or we would have lived on leeks, brassicas and stored potatoes and onions
Instead an early Spring meant Asparagus sprang up on a regular and rapid basis. We have two beds, green and purple, that are in their third year of production so we limited ourselves to about 150 spears that were enjoyed whether steamed and buttered or served with a poached egg or went into a quiche or tart. The tougher parts of the stalks are all frozen for taste of Spring in Winter as asparagus soup.
Rhubarb provided a tasty compote for breakfast with Greek yoghurt though as strawberries and raspberries came into season the rhubarb featured mostly in desserts!
Personally I love the taste of the first new potatoes and with seven varieties a range of textures and tastes boosted the carb content of meals, often accompanied by the first pickings of runner or french beans and lately peas. We grow Heritage varieties wherever possible and save seeds for next year.
There is always great delight at the first picking of figs from our tree in the allotment greenhouse, and this Summer we should have 20 or so, not enough to make jam but perfect on a salad with salty feta cheese.
We have lots of leaves growing for salad and have recently harvested the first cucumbers, tomatoes are still a work in progress as are courgettes and aubergines. Looks like Summer will see us eating well and I shall be flat out preserving, dehydrating, jamming and crystallising apples, pears and a range of vegetables such as beetroot before enjoying the Winter tastes of main crop potatoes, celeriac, parsnips and brassicas.
Luckily with an allotment, and a keen gardener in my wife cooking under lockdown passed without shortages or incidents.
Who knows what a second spike in Covid or Brexit will bring, but a Slow approach will prove a bulwark.
The biggest treat in lockdown for wild swimmers living by the Thames….swimming a mile up river to the only cafe open outside for a takeaway sausage baguette! Heaven ???
Swper. Box CIC sets out ambitious goals ahead of its Launch this October.
Two Welsh Chefs made redundant during lockdown set up pioneering social enterprise Swper. Box. Ahead of their main launch online in October they have a clear and ambitious strategy to create sustainable jobs and support the regeneration of local Welsh communities.
It’s Wales’s First Recipe Box Subscription Service and the only in the UK operating as a Community Interest Company.
Creating Sustainable Jobs at a Living Wage, Supporting a Supply Chain Network of Sustainable Family Farming/Fishing Communities here in Wales, Ensuring Access to Fresh Nutritious Food and Gaining Tasty-Healthy Cooking Skills.
“There is no choice to make, if you are setting up a new business in the current circumstances it just has to be a Community Interest Company. The challenges ahead of us all are great;
We know there will be people in our communities who need sustainable jobs, training and food education.
We know that people are finding it hard to get access to fresh, nutritious and healthy food.
We know that we all want to support Welsh Fishing, Farming and Sustainable Agriculture.
We know that we need to rebuild our nation for a Healthier, Wealthier and Greener Wales.
That’s why Swper. Box was created”
– co-founder Alex Cook
Early March Alex could see the immediate needs of the local community, involved in setting up a local food bank, by April they were coordinating the delivery of 140 meals daily to the Covid Staff at local hospital Glangwili, isolating their home and kitchen to become a production line for six weeks. But it became clear that the needs of the community were changing and looming redundancies across the local hospitality sector hit home when close friend and co-chef Stuart was out of work with no access to extra support.
“we knew we had to do something to create jobs, we just didn’t know what yet, then we discovered (as a lot of people did at that time) home-delivered recipe boxes and quite honestly thought we can do better.
Better ingredients, better recipes and tastier food, simple. And all the time supporting our local economy, sustainable farming and community regeneration” Alex
Set up during lockdown, Swper. Box CIC has already been shortlisted in the Welsh Start-Up Awards for Social Enterprise of the Year, less than 3 Months after incorporation. They are Wales’s First Recipe Box Subscription Service, the first and only in the UK operating as a Social Enterprise, Community Interest Company; harnessing the Seasonal, Organic and Sustainable Ingredients from here in South Wales. They boldly aim to establish Swper. Box as brand leader here is Wales, gaining position in the market through intelligents collaborations and marketing capabilities.
They really care about making sure they can create and safeguard jobs here in Wales, so ahead of their main online launch in October this year they are limiting the amount of subscribers. This is to make sure they deliver on freshness, quality and support their suppliers as they grow together.
In addition to my previous comments about Paul Khan, I learned more about his involvement with the Greenhouse Project in L8 and how food has linked two Liverpool communities. Paul has supplied his own unique curry pastes to L17 residents throughout lockdown. His own Pakistani-African heritage has allowed us to sample new, exotic flavours which have enlivened our tastebuds. Each week he supplied us with a different paste and recipe suggestions. We have all shared photographs of our dishes on WhatsApp, accompanied by lively banter. It has strengthened our neighbourly relations and made us appreciate one another more.
In the attached video, Paul discusses the Greenhouse Project which in these difficult times is providing a community with essential food and life skills. The project teaches children and young adults cooking skills, provides essential safe-play and sporting opportunities.
As lockdown mutates into something more vague most people are embracing the awkwardness of the socially distanced BBQ or returning to outside eating at Welsh pubs and cafes but for my in-laws who are shielding only distanced meetings with family in the garden are a possibility. When we arrived to visit and sample my mother in law’s home made cakes it was raining so we sat at the entrance to the garage.