Local Food – Supermarket local sourcing initiatives: Moving us further away from a sustainable, local food economy
Provenance (where foods come from) sounds sexy. Think Cornish clotted cream, Scottish raspberries, all the rage on the menus of fancy restaurants and in supermarket advertising in the Sunday supplements. But declaring provenance doesn’t equate to saying it’s locally produced: You can buy, for example, Cornish clotted cream in Scotland and Hereford beef in London. Provenance is also somewhat one-dimensional; it describes the physical place of production but does not provide the broader economic, environmental and social aspects and benefits attributable to local food.
‘The typical supermarket contains no fewer than 30,000 items. About half of those items are produced by 10 multinational food and beverage companies. And roughly 140 people ? 117 men and 21 women ? form the boards of directors of those 10 companies. In other words, although the plethora of products you see at a typical supermarket gives the appearance of abundant choice, much of the variety is more a matter of packaging and branding than of true agricultural variety, and rather than coming to us from thousands of different farmers producing different local varieties, has been globally standardized and selected for maximum profit.’ – Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé in ‘Hope’s Edge’
The Soil Association says that local food is “food arising from a system of producing, processing and trading, primarily organic and sustainable forms of food production, where the physical and economic activity is largely contained within and controlled within the locality or the region where it was produced, which delivers health, economic, environmental and social benefits to the people in those areas.”
Whilst supermarkets are very keen on provenance and have created a variety of ‘local’ sourcing initiatives, in reality the genuine local food sector is in danger of being co-opted by the big food retailers.
References  Francis Moore Lappe and Anne Lappe, In Hope’s Edge
 Sustain, Sustainable food chains; Briefing Paper One; Local Food, Benefits, Obstacles and Oppurtunities, 2002 – www.sustainweb.org/pdf/briefing1.pdf
Published in 2010.