Anna Locke writes about the newly launched 1066 Food Network is a local initiative intended to create a viable alternative community around Hastings. It aims to ‘join the dots’ by linking growers, farmers, producers and consumers – making it easier for everyone to find each other.

Shockingly, 95% of UK food retail purchases are made at just nine supermarket companies. The 1066 local network wants to decentralise the delivery system, shorten supply chains and bring local food to local people.

I find supermarket produce unimaginative, feeling disconnected from it by the physical barriers of plastic, cardboard and metal and, on a human level, it being brought to us by machines, not people. We all know that supermarkets function on a large scale, but when it comes to local foodstuffs I believe small is beautiful.

Keeping it local
Many smaller food enterprises already exist and provide increasingly viable livelihoods for their owners. They tend to produce tastier, more creative and harmonious products and have a direct and, literally, more nourishing relationship with their customers. Fungusloci – a firm that grows mushrooms on coffee waste – is an excellent example of just such a successful business.

A food system focused on thriving small enterprises creates jobs. Locally made products support growers operating on a modest scale and using ecological farming practices. In contrast to corporate agriculture the enhanced visibility of the whole system means consumers can be certain where their purchases come from and how they are produced. This makes for a very loyal customer base – mostly because products are so tasty, but also because it fosters a sense of community.

Ore shows the way
Smaller food businesses and community-driven food enterprises also help tackle social issues. A really good example here in Hastings can be seen at the Ore Valley Community Centre – its cafe and recently launched ‘pantry’ projects. FEED Hastings is redistributing food waste in creative and delicious ways and is really getting food to where it is needed.

This is exactly why we need a food network – to enhance communication between all
the different aspects of sales and production in order to reduce wastage – whether fruit left
un-picked on trees that could be turned into preserves, or food waste from supermarkets that can be magically transformed by a local chef and served in a community cafe.

What is sustainable food?
food grown or made close to home
food grown using ecological farming methods
food that would otherwise be wasted
food that is healthy

There are lots of fairer and funkier ways to organise the food system than the current big business model and many examples of other towns and communities doing it. A quick ‘google’ reveals other localised food networks and food hubs springing up all over the world; each with a slightly different emphasis, but essentially working towards a fairer distribution system where smaller farms and food makers may prosper and fresher, healthier food can reach more people.

Currently there’s a lot of great thinking on the topic. To learn more I recommend checking out the Sustainable Food Trust, the Open Food Network and ‘A People’s Food Policy’.

n If you grow, make, sell or want to buy local food please join the 1066 Food Network on facebook or e-mail [email protected] Once they’ve secured funding, the members hope to get an interactive website or green directory together.

Anna Locke is a local permaculture teacher, consultant and designer

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