Why local authorities need to support local food
Wednesday, 4th October 2023 by Chen
BBC radio 4 food programme logo

Did you hear Julie on BBC Radio 4's Food Programme on Sunday?

Julie talked to Sheila Dillon about the biggest challenges in making local food more accessible for communities.

“We have to get national and local government on board with this,” said Julie. “They need to understand that if they want local and climate-friendly supply chains to be supplying the people in their areas, they need to actively step up and support this. 

“At the moment we're looking for a new premises for the Better Food Shed [our wholesaler]. We need a local authority who's going to give us a social value rent. We need local authorities to give us support with the infrastructure and the distribution systems but also to start buying from us. We could be selling into schools; we could be looking into other avenues of procurement.”

In a wide-reaching conversation, Julie and Sheila talked about Bridging the Gap, the project we're involved in to get climate- and nature-friendly food to people on lower incomes, and about the tricky challenge of balancing paying farmers fairly while keeping costs affordable.

“We need to pay farmers a fair price for their produce, so we start with that as our baseline. Then we put our markup on it, we pay ourselves living wages, then we pass that produce onto our customers. We manage to cut out a lot of the costs because the scheme is local, so some of the distribution costs are less and we don't have waste.”

GC team members with Food Programme producer Sophie Anton and presenter Sheila Dillon

Vicki Hird, head of farming at Sustain, discussed unfairness in the supermarket-dominated food system and the undeniable benefits of buying from agroecological traders like GC's veg scheme and farmers' market. “Consumers get great, freshly picked and fairly traded produce and farmers can stay organic and stay in business."

The whole programme is well worth a listen, with Sheila asking experts and small-scale food producers big questions about what changes are necessary “if we're going to break away from the globalised food chains that are so good at producing food that is cheap at the till but so costly in other ways”. 

Listen to the episode here. If you're pushed for time, GC gets its first mention after about 2 minutes, then Julie starts at about 8min 50sec. (You'll also briefly hear the voice of veg scheme coordinator Jo talking about the farms where all your weekly produce comes from.)