Over a third of all lorry miles are food related and many car trips are to the supermarket. In inner city areas fresh, locally grown food can be hard to find and, for many households, difficult to afford. For the last ten years, Growing Communities, a community-led organisation in Hackney, in inner London has been trying to change this.
Through working with a network of local food growers in the surrounding countryside and even setting up micro-plots in the city, much of the food supplied can be sourced locally, reducing the distance it needs to travel by lorry, and salad from the micro-plots can be delivered without the use of any lorries. Over 3000 people now get fruit and vegetables weekly from the scheme and as it has grown, so the number of local pick-up points has increased to ten.
Food can be picked up at set times at these points, which include cafes, health food shops, a church and even a climbing centre. At the Old Fire Station, in Stoke Newington, where the packing of the bags takes place, there are storage cupboards with combination locks, allowing scheme participants to pick-up their bags at any time. Bags that are not picked up after a couple of days are given to homeless charities, so as to prevent the food being wasted.
The bags are distributed to the pick-up points by Maisie, a converted electric milkfloat designed to look like a cow, and by a freight quadcycle (a four wheeled cycle with a flat bed for freight). Because the pick-up points are close to where people live, almost all participants pick up their bags of veg by foot or cycle, such as on their way home. Growing Communities is now promoting its successful model across the country and has helped set up new schemes as far apart as Manchester and Margate.
Growing Communities - Hackney based food scheme
Growing Communities start-up programme - how to set up a scheme locally
CPRE local food campaign - information about the benefits of local foods, including a local food toolkit