Love Local Food

In days of old all food was local. You or members of your family had probably toiled in the fields where crops were grown and if there was meat on your table you usually had a nodding acquaintance with it. Before refrigeration and fast travel links food more often than not was consumed where it was farmed. This would have been in the pre industrial revolution where most people lived on the land rather than in cities. All this changed as the first factories were built and our agrarian population migrated to the cities so that they could be close to their work. Parallel improvements in transport enabled the movement of food to the new centres of population. Mechanisation and improvements in productivity equally meant that less people were needed on the land.

If we fast forward to modern times food is transported from all around the world by ship and plane sometimes travelling thousands of miles before it reaches our plates. Equally vast amounts of vegetables are grown and held in nitrogen-filled storage to be released as demand dictates; not to mention refrigerated meat being shipped from country to country. The simple delight of picking a native apple from the tree and eating it there and then is a mystery for many of today’s youngsters who do not really appreciate how our food is actually produced. Indeed, many do not really know that the Harvest Festival was once a huge celebration of the bounty of the crops at the end of summer and a recognition of the efforts of al those harvesting the crops.

All is not lost though, recent times have seen a resurgence in local food suppliers, many of whom supply directly to their customers. The growth of farmers’ markets in virtually every town has spurred this movement. Everyone appreciates that home-produced bananas are unlikely to happen but there is so much seasonal, fresh local produce available people’s tastebuds are being re-awakened. Even the big supermarkets have latched on to this process, passionate in displaying the provenance of their locally-grown produce.

Concerns for animal welfare have centred on them being allowed to live longer in better conditions and not spending their last hours being transported hundreds of distressing miles for slaughter. Hens are often allowed to roam freely and the rise of the organic movement has lead to better quality produce.

All these improvements have also filtered into the network of restaurants and artisan food producers who labour long and hard to re-introduce flavour and variety into our diets. It has been a quiet revolution but one that will surely leave us all healthier and happier!

British Food Fortnight

British Food Fortnight is held in the autumn at the same time as harvest festival, and is the biggest annual, national celebration of British food and drink. It was established in the wake of the Foot and Mouth crisis, in response to the fact that, though there are numerous food initiatives, projects and events taking place across Britain, there was no overall flagship event to bring them to the public’s attention.

Since its beginnings in 2002, British Food Fortnight has become THE opportunity for those who work in any aspect of food and drink, to come together and promote the benefits of buying and eating from our home produced British larder. In setting a particular date range, it concentrate efforts across sectors.

Every year businesses and organisations across the UK take part, all enjoying the commercial benefits that participation brings. The public sector supports the event en-masse with major hospitals and school catering services being involved.

Want to celebrate?

This year British Food Fortnight will take place from 23rd September – 8th October, with the Co-Op acting as the official sponsor. If you want to find out more about the festival, how to get involved, head to www.lovebritishfood.co.uk food

Top tips for eating and buying more local food:

  • KNOW WHAT IS IN SEASON – seasonal food is healthier and more likely to be locally grown.
  • SHOP AT FARMERS’ MARKETS – meet the producers too!
  • SHOP IN STORES WHERE FOOD ORIGINS ARE LISTED ON PACKAGING – Co-Op are known for this, but more and more supermarkets are waking up to the importance of food provenance.
  • CHOOSE RESTAURANTS THAT SOURCE LOCALLY – don’t be afraid to ask the team where they source from.
  • BUY FAMILY FARMED OR FAIRTRADE PRODUCTS when local aren’t available.
  • SHOP THE PERIMETER OF STORE – The aisles around the perimeter contain more ingredients than processed foods. Shop here for fresh produce, meats, and dairy – if it is in season it is more likely to be local.