Local food economy working group

The food and economy working group of Sustainable Food City Lancaster met this week to catch up on progress…

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This working group is one of five that meets regularly to develop a holistic, sustainable food strategy for Lancaster District- under Sustainable Food City Lancaster- with the ultimate aim of making good (healthy and sustainable) food available to all.

The food and economy group is working towards developing a ring of small producers around the District that are mission driven, commercially viable and supply fresh sustainable produce to local organisations. It also aims to support local food procurement by local institutions; to implement a FarmStart model in Lancaster District and create paid posts to support the removal of barriers between food production, distribution and retail. In order to achieve these ambitious aims, a series of smaller targets and projects have been outlined that will help in achieving the group’s long term vision.

So, in the past month several members of the group attended a Preston model meeting in Preston. This event was organised by Kay Johnson of the Larder, and was attended by a recently recruited food procurement officer -Rachel Wheble. For the next six months Rachel will scope out small scale (yet to be defined) farms across Lancashire that might be interested in supplying food to Preston based public institutions. We are therefore looking forward to learning the outcomes of this work and the process Rachel undergoes, so that we can potentially replicate it here in Lancaster. (I also have a better understanding around the importance of creating seperate distribution models for public sector procurement of local food and the distribution of local food from small farms direct to consumers!)

Since the FarmStart feasibility study report launch last month, a lot has happened to develop this project further. A small scale funding bid has been submitted to set up a training programme for 15-20 people, with the aim of building commercial organic growing skills and community. The plan is for one training session per month and will include farm visits.

A 2.6 acre site has also been found near the city centre that could potentially be used for FarmStart. We are now in the process of scoping the suitability of this land with the help of Growing Well.

Finally, we are starting to develop an Ethical Purchasing guidebook for Lancaster that will offer advice on how to be a good ‘food citizen’ – supporting the creation of a sustainable food system. This will be developed alongside a weekly local food charter market stall that we hope to trial in 2019.

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