Press Release –  14 November, 2012

Doddington-cheeseThe Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) and local food consultants, f3, are currently undertaking an evaluation of the Local Food programme, a £59.8 million funding programme that distributes money from the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) to a variety of food-related projects to help make locally grown food accessible and affordable to communities.

The interim evaluation report was recently presented at a conference – ‘More than just the Veg. Exploring how Local Food projects are growing communities’ – at City Hall in London. The findings, which are based on an analysis of 29 case studies illustrate that, while delivering on the overall aim of making local food more accessible and affordable to communities, Local Food is also a vehicle for community cohesion, regeneration, healthy eating, educational enhancement, integrating disadvantaged groups into mainstream society, and developing people’s skills so that they are better able to get into paid employment.

The leader of the research team, Dr James Kirwan, explained to conference delegates the methodological approach taken to the evaluation, as well as how the projects supported by Local Food are helping to build capacity at three levels (material, personal and cultural) and, in the process, helping to develop the overall capacity and resilience of the communities involved. Some of the key benefits of Local Food include that:

• communities are better able to manage land sustainably for growing food locally;

• those involved have developed their knowledge and understanding of food, and have a better understanding of how other people relate to food;

• local economic activity in relation to community food enterprises has been stimulated through a combination of skills development, infrastructural improvements and a broader recognition of the benefits of local food at an organisational level;

• a wide range of opportunities for learning and the development of skills have been created, as well as some paid jobs; and

• awareness has been raised about the links between food and healthy lifestyles, through developing skills such as cooking and food growing

A lively panel debate chaired by Sheila Dillon, Presenter of Radio 4’s The Food Programme, then discussed the potential of building on the very positive effects these projects are having, to the benefit of the wider economy and society as a whole.

Local Food was developed by a consortium of 17 national environmental organisations and is being delivered by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT). The evaluation began in 2009, and is due to complete in March 2014.

There are several on-going projects in Gloucestershire and surrounding counties which are funded by the scheme, and more details can be found on the Local Food website