Keeping food local

PUBLISHED: 16:19 07 April 2009 | UPDATED: 15:54 20 February 2013

An exhibition of local food in the Kenilworth Library

An exhibition of local food in the Kenilworth Library

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England is on the case of protecting local food which will help all of us says Nicholas Butler.

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England is on the case of protecting local food which will help all of us says Nicholas Butler.


A supermarket chain wanted to build a store in a Suffolk market town. It would do no great harm, it was alleged, only two local shops would be affected. One of our members thought otherwise. She contacted 81 retailers in the area and discovered that 67 of them thought they would be harmed by the new store. The authorities backed her, the application was turned down and that, 11 years ago, was the beginning of our campaign to promote local food.


Supermarkets can undercut the prices charged by small shops and put them out of business, that we all know. As regards food the problem goes deeper. Supermarkets use long distribution systems. Their goods come from all over the world and they generally have little truck with local farmers. With few exceptions, the big chain stores do not try to sell food grown and produced in the areas they serve. So they not only harm small shops, but farms. The whole local economy is threatened.


The cost of importing food is enormous and long food chains create pollution. And what would happen if this global distribution system broke down? What if fuel for the cargo ships and lorries was suddenly unavailable? Being detached from the farmland around us is potentially dangerous.


So CPRE is creating maps of food chains all over England, showing which farms send produce to which shops. When this project is advanced we will step up our campaign to persuade supermarkets to stock local food and label it as such, so that customers know exactly where it comes from. The whole planning system is currently being revised, so we shall press for local authorities to include policies in the new planning documents that will promote local retailers.


To make the party go we are currently holding workshops all over the country, there was one in Kenilworth recently. About 30 people, farmers, producers, shop owners, members of the public who support local food and CPRE members attended.


We were welcomed with sustaining mugs of tomato and spinach soup - made from local produce needless to say -then settled down in groups to answer such questions as "Does local food preserve wildlife?", "Does local food contribute to local distinctiveness?", "Does local food attract tourism?" .


Our concern with local producers and retailers is not a sentimental yearning for a traditional way of life that has disappeared; it is vitally important.

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