Sourcing food from local farmers rather than from supermarkets is a defining principle for Real Economy, but not everyone in our society is clear about why this is a good thing to do.
Here are five reasons for why we do this.
Reason 1 Nutrition
Food sourced locally has the potential to be the freshest and most nutritious food of all. One of the key difficulties experienced by people in hardship is poor diet. The scarcity of resources means that many will fill themselves and their children up on cheap, ultra-processed food that has little nutritional value and promotes obesity. Poor diets are a leading cause of disease and premature mortality in the more challenging areas of our city. Sourcing food from local farmers puts the focus on fresh foods and on the fruit and vegetables that are so often missing from those with a poor diet.
Reason 2 Transparency
Sourcing food from local farmers offers the possibility to really know where the food comes from. This means that we can know how the farmers farm; how their animals are treated; how wildlife and the soil is treated; what workers they employ and at what rate. We can know that our food is fresh and feel part of the community of people that made this food possible.
By contrast supermarkets pretend to have a friendly relationship with farmers by using homely names like Bernard Matthews, while beneath the label there lies a mega farm utilising animals and land on an industrial scale together with processing plants that are like factories. The farms need to make great investments to win the supermarket orders but then lie helpless in the power of the supermarket’s giant purchasing machine. And the public generally know none of this.
Reason 3 Economy
There is good reason to believe that even a small shift in our food purchasing habits towards local food would have a beneficial effect on the local economy, providing more local employment and stimulating other local businesses. This is based on what the New Economics Foundation have called the Local Multiplier Effect, whereby money that circulates in a local community becomes of more economic value to that community than money that immediately leaves that community.
There is also the potential for economic advantages that do not measure against Gross Domestic Product, but are part of the ‘real’ economy of people and communities. These benefits would be felt by someone, or a community of people, that identified new land and worked it together to provide food in a cashless manner. The allotmenteer, for example, contributes nothing to GDP, but experiences a substantial economic gain through growing their own veg.
Reason 4 Community
Growing and sourcing food locally has the potential to tap into our creative side, finding new ways to work together around food. Community supported agriculture has a substantial history, especially in in countries like France, where significant communities are formed around food production. This is also beginning to happen here.
Reason 5 Nature
Becoming aware of our food and the people who produce it also brings us in touch with the natural world. Local food is food ‘in a context’ and that context is the natural world. So we come to care for wildlife and its relationship to farming. We notice the seasons and begin to eat seasonally. We recognise the diversity of animal and plant life and care about those animals we interact with. Sourcing food locally will also cut carbon emissions by encouraging greater care for soils and reducing transport needs. All this flows from local sourcing of food.
For interest– A good story about local food in comparison with supermarkets has just been released by Felicity Lawrence