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SUPERMARKET LOCAL SOURCING INITIATIVES : The Benefits of Local Food

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Environmental benefits:

The Benefits of Local Food

Environmental benefits:

  • Sustainable production methods - The majority of farmers who sell at farmers’ markets use more environmentally friendly farming systems or they farm organically.[11]
  • Reduced transportation - Trucks moving food account for 25% of all road freight in the United Kingdom. Food transportation within the UK (cars, trains, trucks) creates almost 2% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions. Fresh fruit and vegetables go off quickly – so those that travel long distances usually travel by air, the most environmentally damaging form of transport (11% of greenhouse gas emissions is food transport-related[12]).Car miles associated with grocery shopping increased by over a third between 1992 and 2002, reflecting growing affluence, car ownership and the increase in bulk grocery shopping at out-of-town supermarkets. Relocalising food production and distribution systems will reduce the food system's contribution to these climate-affecting greenhouse gas emissions.

Social/Cultural Benefits:

  • Food security - Our food and farming system needs to become increasingly resilient as we face peak oil, the impacts of climate change both on our ability to farm (droughts and flooding) and on the consequence of using ever more fossil fuels. There will be increasing competition for land due to agrofuel production and the possibility of resource wars, whether for land, oil, water or seeds. We need to be ready to face these with a locally appropriate and diverse farming system that is capable of supplying the majority of our food needs locally. Otherwise we face the prospect of increasing food injustice between those who have access to food and those who do not.
  • Direct connections between farmers and consumers - Local food fosters greater trust and connection between farmers and those who eat the food they produce than long-distance food, where there is no obvious connection back to the farm.
  • Food culture and diversity - Local food can reconnect us with where our food comes from. Many of us have lost our connection with the land and the seasons, and have little or no awareness of when, where or how various foods are produced. The quest for easily transportable, cosmetically attractive, and broadly acceptable produce has favoured the cultivation of uniform varieties, and the production of uniform foodstuffs over the more locally distinct, quirky and genetically diverse varieties that prevailed as part of former farming practices and food traditions and are integral to our culture and landscape. Food that has travelled long distances erodes seasonal and local distinctiveness in favour of uniformity.
  • Freshness, flavour and variety - Local produce is likely to be fresher, more flavoursome and more varied. Long-distance fruit and vegetable varieties tend to be chosen for their yield and keeping qualities, not for flavour, diversity or nutritional value. Many are harvested before they are ripe and stored for long periods before distribution losing freshness, flavour and nutritional content.

Economic Benefits:

  • Creating jobs and job security - Diversification of processing and direct supply or retailing of local produce has been critical to the survival of many farm businesses. They get a fairer share of the 'food pound' as they deal directly with the public, receiving fair prices for their produce. Farm businesses involved in the local food sector employ a greater number of people than the conventional agriculture sector. A survey of 70 small food businesses in the south west of England showed that 38% had created new jobs in the previous year (an average increase of 0.5 full-time employees for each business).[13] Long-distance food sold through supermarkets does not reward producers with fair prices for their produce. Instead, we pay for the costs of transport, refrigeration and packaging.
  • Improving local economies - Money spent on local produce at farmers’ markets and locally owned shops stays in the community, cycling through to create jobs, raise incomes, and support farmers and, indirectly, other local businesses (the multiplier effect).[14] Long-distance food sold in supermarkets siphons away profits to company shareholders; very little is reinvested in the local economy.

References

[11] op cit

[12] DEFRA, The Validity of Food Miles as a measure of Sustainable Development, July 2005 - http://statistics.defra.gov.uk/esg/reports/foodmiles/final.pdf

[13] Devon County Council, Local Food Links in the South West of England, 2002

[14] Tim Boyde, Cusgarne Organics, Local Money Flows, New Economics Foundation and The Countryside Agency, 2001 - www.neweconomics.org