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What we think about local foods

A new greengrocer opens in Eynsham A new greengrocer opens in Eynsham Photo: © Jane Tomlinson

How far did the food on your plate travel from the place where it was farmed? Can you even make a guess? How much of it was produced in Oxfordshire? We are losing our connection with where our food comes from. We don’t know the people who farmed it, the place where it was grown or the kind of landscape and environment it comes from. 

The relentless spread of superstores offers a degree of convenience but at the cost of:

  • Loss of choice as it becomes harder to buy local foods
  • Loss of jobs as local businesses close
  • Loss of character, as once distinctive lively town centres become 'clone towns'
  • Loss of landscape when traditional farming practices are discontinued
  • Increase in 'food miles', the distance travelled by food from source to our plates
CPRE’s vision is that wherever you live, you should be able to walk into a shop, supermarket or restaurant and find high-quality, affordable local food that comes from the nearby countryside and is produced in a way that benefits the environment – or at the very least does not harm it.

Most of our food comes from the big supermarket chains, which sell very little locally produced food. If we shop from them, we have no way of choosing which farms and which farming methods we do want to support.

The local shops that do sell local food are being driven out of business. And because the supermarkets can dictate the price they pay farmers, the farmers who are unable to keep up with this are losing their jobs as well.

We need to make a greater link between the food we buy and the landscape in which it is produced. Our definition of local foods is that the product should be grown and processed within 30 miles of the store.

Local foods can:

  • encourage a more sustainable use of land
  • reduce traffic congestion, noise and pollution
  • create jobs and help local rural economies, and
  • link shoppers with farmers.

As consumers, we can make a huge difference to helping local food producers and retailers survive. CPRE has been working with organisations including: the Government, Food Links UK and Sustain to encourage demand for local foods.

Supermarkets also have a vital role to play. Waitrose has taken up our 30-mile definition of ‘local food’ for the produce on its shelves, and we are urging other supermarkets to take this on.

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