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Shopping and eating locally

  • by JW

Listing ways to shop and eat in the Sid Valley.

“The convenience of home delivery, combined with the direct connection to the farm and seasons, is something that supermarkets can’t match.” [Rob Haward, CEO of Riverford]


On BBC Two, in his new series Rick Stein’s Food Stories, he “tucks into the nation’s cook book, savouring the UK’s favourite food. From farm to fork, he explores age-old traditions and modern tastes.”

In the most recent episode, he meets Pamela Brunton of Inver – who are the only Scottish restaurant to have a Michelin Green Star and whose menu showcases local and foraged ingredients.

And at the end of his series, Rick Stein is to explore Devon’s best food and drink: “I’ve always been proud of the spirit of innovation to be found here… Home to a crusading force in sustainable agriculture.”

These pages have looked at Sustainable Food Tourism – that “by sticking to locally sourced food, minimising waste and even opting to sample some great plant-based dishes, we can enjoy your culinary experiences abroad in a way that’s kind to the environment.”

But as Rick says, we don’t have to travel miles to enjoy good food. And more and more of us are shopping locally for food

Sarah Barratt writing in the i-news asks us to meet the shoppers on a mission to save high streets. Here’s the first part of her excellently-researched piece, full of inspiration, useful links and places to go.

Nick Weir can’t remember the last time he shopped in a supermarket, but estimates it was around 15 years ago. “I believe that where we spend our money is the biggest form of control we have over the future,” says the communications manager from Stroud, Gloucestershire. “Small shops are part of the fabric of the community. The soul of a place is lost when they disappear.” Alongside health food stores and farmers’ markets, Weir orders fresh produce from the local “food hub” he helped set up – a collective of 85 small suppliers, who sell products via an online marketplace. Dried goods are bought in bulk from a wholesaler and vegetables come from a  Community Sourced Agriculture project (a partnership between farmers and consumers, cutting out the middleman).  

“Shopping this way could soon be a necessity,” notes Kay Reed, a marketing strategist for the Open Food Network, a not-for-profit whose interactive map connects communities with local producers. “With our current reliance on complicated and fragile global supply chains, when one thing goes wrong, it causes huge disruption, resulting in the shelf shortages we have seen so much in the past few years.” Localised food systems, she points out, are much more robust. 

Now, a growing number of conscientious consumers are joining Weir’s ranks – with a recent study by Red Tractor showing that four in ten shoppers no longer trust supermarkets, perceiving that food quality is declining. Research by global tech firm ThoughtWorks reveals that under half of Britons (49 per cent) believe they will buy food from supermarkets in the future.

The pandemic helped supercharge the change. Organic veg box retailer Riverford saw sales soar from 50,000 boxes a week to 85,000 at the height of lockdown in 2020. While numbers have dipped since then, the Devon-based B Corp still delivers 70,000 boxes a week. “I think this reflects how the benefits of finding an alternative way to buy groceries, discovered by many during the pandemic, are going to last way beyond it,” says Rob Haward, CEO of Riverford. “The convenience of home delivery, combined with the direct connection to the farm and seasons, is something that supermarkets can’t match.”

Sarah includes all sorts, including the Open Food Network – which provides support for food producers and community food hubs, and which won the award for digital innovation in the European Social Economy Awards last month. And meanwhile in these parts, the In My Back Yard East Devon food network is expanding too – with a very straightforward system of ordering local online.

There are other sustainable, local food deliveries – including the Milk & More | Online Artisan Grocery | Sustainable Delivery Service – made popular during lockdown.

There is also OLIO - “an app that redistributes waste produce, as well as The Bread and Butter Thing, a food surplus redistribution charity offering affordable groceries to those who need them” as covered by Sarah. And locally, the Sidmouth SAVE Food Hub makes use of the Olio sharing app – where “fresh bread, fruit, vegetables and more will be on offer to anyone who can make use of them.”

Fundamentally, this is about us becoming more “locavore” – that is, eating more locally. And as the Food Programme said recently, “the Covid pandemic was a reminder that localised networks give our food system resilience during disruption, but also that they pay farmers fairly to produce food in a nature friendly way, and helps them stay in business.”

It’s also about ‘community supported agriculture’ – and “how farmers and consumers can share the responsibilities, risks and rewards”.

Ultimately, we can support our local farmers and local food people by buying from them – and here in the Sid Valley, that includes: