Experts in public health and sustainability shared their research and discussed the next steps for our local food economy with 60 participants at a special event at the University of Huddersfield on 15th February 2016.
Commissioned by Kirklees Council’s Public Health directorate, the report provides evidence of how the current Kirklees food system contributes to the aim of making local people and the economy more resilient.
The research had three main objectives:
- To explore the potential impact of local food on economic development.
- To examine possible frameworks for an independent Kirklees food partnership.
- To develop awareness and promote the significance of these issues.
The report describes and praises many aspects of food strategy and community developments in Kirklees, but it also flags up causes for concern, such as a decline in attendance in local farmers’ markets and food festivals in the district. They are being shunned by some producers because of higher rents and lower takings.
The concept of a regional food hub – which offers services such as help with distribution, storage and marketing so that local producers can boost their market share – is well-advanced in the USA (see the USDA Regional Food Hub Resource Guide (PDF). But there are also pioneering examples in the UK, and Dr Lever researched several of them.
He believes that the best model for Kirklees to emulate would be the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership, a not-for-profit company that stresses – in its own words – “social equity, economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, global fair trade and the health and wellbeing of all residents”.
- Many community food enterprises exist in isolation and there is little to bind them together beyond small reciprocal exchanges.
- The community food sector needs more support and Kirklees should focus on the many good things that are already happening across the borough.
- Redefining what is meant by ‘local food’ would improve the effectiveness of local supply chains and enable better procurement.
- Better local procurement and sourcing would enable local producers and entrepreneurs to make a more effective contribution to the local economy.
- A system of local / sub regional food hubs is already in place across Kirklees comprised of community retailers, farm shops and schools.
- There is wide support for the development of an independent Kirklees food partnership and central food hub to coordinate these initiatives more effectively.
- The Brighton and Hove Food Partnership provides a good model for Kirklees to follow, but the right people must be involved from the outset if any new approach is to be successful.
- Any new agenda must ensure that all the diverse communities across Kirklees, deprived as well as affluent, benefit from any new ways of working.
- Better planning and public policies are needed if the joint Kirklees Health & Wellbeing and Economic Strategies are to bring about outcomes that cut across different areas of service delivery.
- More commitment and support for partnership working is needed across all sectors in West Yorkshire.
- Provide more support for the community food sector in Kirklees.
- Initiative better partnership working and collaboration across all sectors in West Yorkshire.
- Link the local food system with local supply chains to enhance local sourcing and procurement.
- Initiative better planning and policy to link the food system to population needs across different areas of service delivery more effectively.
- Develop a local food partnership and food hub infrastructure to drive the food strategy to the next level.
Food for Life
The Future of Local Food in Kirklees event also included research about the Food for Life Programme in schools, presented by Mat Jones, who is Associate Professor of Public Health at the University of the West of England. His research found that Food for Life generates £5 for our local economy from every £1 invested. Over half of our district’s schools have signed up to Food for Life and children in these schools eat a healthier diet rich in fruit and vegetables.
Councillor Viv Kendrick, Kirklees cabinet member for Prevention, Early Intervention and Vulnerable Adults said:
In times of austerity I am proud that Kirklees is looking at how we can sustain food activity in the future, building on community assets and partnerships to lead the way in promoting good food for people across the life course and in a wide range of settings including early years, schools, hospitals and care settings.
Tony Cooke, Head of Health Improvement for Kirklees Council said:
In Kirklees, more than two thirds of adults (65.7%) and a third of children by Year 6 are overweight or obese. This problem is linked to people not eating a healthy diet and not doing enough exercise and physical activity. The launch of these research papers will influence how the council and its partners begin to transport our local food culture into one that supports healthy choices and promotes a good diet for children and adults.
Dr John Lever said we should do more to support the many food projects we already have in Kirklees:
There are many tensions in the conventional food system that contribute towards public health problems and the future resilience of local communities. The many food projects already operating in Kirklees provide the foundations on which Kirklees can move towards a more resilient and sustainable future.
Presentations from the Future of Local Food event