pocket or planet

Pocket or Planet

How local veg schemes are good for your pocket and your planet

A new report shows that local food retailers who sell food from climate-friendly farmers generate significant value for the people that eat the food, grow the food and the environment. For every £1 spent buying organic food through a veg scheme such as Local Greens, almost £3 more is generated in benefits to customers, farmers, citizens and the planet. The report was written by thinktank NEF Consulting in collaboration with organic certification body Soil Association based on interviews with customers, farmers and staff of a food retailer called Growing Communities, which runs an organic fruit and veg scheme and farmers’ market in Hackney, London. Results were then measured against national indicators of health and wellbeing as well as environmental measures such as wildlife, biodiversity and soil health.

Like Local Greens, Growing Communities is part of the Better Food Traders network, a group of retailers that adhere to strict principles about how the food they sell is sourced and sold: paying fair prices to local sustainable farmers; keeping supply chains short; and encouraging people to eat less meat and processed food and more fresh fruit and veg.

The report concludes that selling food this way offers customers a “competitive and attractive product that generates multiple benefits for customers” in terms of improved health and wellbeing and reduced food waste.

The report found that buying food through a local veg scheme has many benefits:

  • Eat fresh, healthy food: Customers who buy from a Better Food Trader eat more fresh, seasonal produce and less processed food than they did before they joined
  • Waste less food: Customers cook more meals from scratch and become more adventurous cooks
  • Build healthy soils: Buying organic food has a positive impact on wildlife, biodiversity and soil health. One soil found that the number of arable plant species on organic farms was double the number on conventional farms. There are nearly twice as many earthworms on organic farms
  • Cut greenhouse gases: Organic farming uses fewer pesticides and fertilisers (which are made out of fossil fuels). Eating locally and seasonally means food doesn’t travel such a long way from the farm to your fork
  • Cut food waste on farms: A third of farmers surveyed said they produced less waste as a result of working directly with Growing Communities’ veg box scheme and farmer’s market, because you buy their seasonal, wonky veg
  • Create secure local jobs: Buying a regular veg box from a Better Food Trader means that the retailer and your local farmers have a secure income and decent wages all year round, so they not only survive, but also thrive
  • Customers feel more involved with their community.
  • It creates secure, local, Living-Wage jobs.

“This study shows that Better Food Traders are delivering on all the elements we want from a good food and farming system,” said Growing Communities director Julie Brown. “Decent and healthy food for all (fresh, seasonal and mainly plant-based); nature-friendly food production; and engaged and empowered citizens willing and able to feed themselves," she continues, “I’d argue that the Better Food Traders do this a lot better than the supermarket-driven system, which is currently failing to deliver on those things.”

In financial terms, every £1 spent with Growing Communities generates benefits worth £3.46 for the people eating the food; 32p for the environment; 11p for the farmers; and 7p for Growing Communities staff.

Natasha Soares, Project Leader of Better Food Traders added, "We’ve always believed that the alternative food system we are building brings valuable benefits to people and the planet. Despite the mainstream system being stacked against small, fair and sustainable food and farming businesses, we’re delighted to see this report demonstrating how much value is created by the Better Food Trader model."

Invite a friend or family member join in this mission by signing up for Local Greens. Share our site, https://www.localgreens.org.uk/, for them to learn more and sign up.

Find out more about the Better Food Traders: https://betterfoodtraders.org/

To read the report Farmer-Focused Routes to Market: An Evaluation of Social, Environmental and Economic Contributions of Growing Communities in full, visit https://www.nefconsulting.com/growing-communities-evaluation

Read more about Growing Communities’ perspective at https://growingcommunities.org/blog/2021/04/buying-through-gc-better