Local Food - Feeding the growth of local communities

Local Food was a £60 million programme that distributed grants to a variety of food-related projects which were helping to make locally grown food accessible to local communities between 2008 and 2014, supported by the Big Lottery Fund and managed by The Wildlife Trusts.

The Wildlife Trusts has more than 20 years of experience in managing social and environmental grant programmes totalling over £250 million, and proven successes working with and empowering people to make significant environmental and societal impacts across the UK.

When launched in 2008, the Local Food programme saw a phenomenal demand for funding, evidencing the public’s growing appetite to get involved with growing food locally. As a result of this, the programme had to suspend the acceptance of new applications after just 14 months, almost three years before the programme was due to close.

Facts and Figures

Impacts

Land

Many of the case study projects have brought previously cultivated or new land into mainly crop, but also animal, production. This was often in the form of allotments, gardens, new growing spaces or part of a farm and usually involves relatively small areas of less than one hectare.

It’s taken a long time to actually understand that it is local activity which is most important. I enjoy meeting people, I get cheaper food and feel part of the community - Sustaining Sutton

People

The impact of the Local Food programme on people, directly or indirectly has been a significant achievement with many projects engaging with considerable numbers of people. 

The volunteer opportunities at each project differ greatly. Volunteers are a mix of race, age and gender, and many different people are involved and many are new to local food. These include practitioners, design students, school groups, a group visit scheme and people from the local community - Permaculture LAND Project

Events

These ranged from training and skills sessions to family fun food growing days and healthy eating and cooking events.

At the beginning of the project, the general skill level for growing food was low. This increased hugely through the facilitation of workshops and emphasis on skill sharing. Nearly 90% were completely new to food growing - The Growing Kitchen Community

Engagement

Wider community engagement became a prominent aspect of many Local Food funded projects with deliberate attempts to engage the wider community through specific community events about local food and healthy eating.

The allotment project has led to a number of other activities e.g. growing herbs in window boxes; children painting plant pots for sale and doing flower baskets for sheltered housing; lots of conversations about eating vegetables; vegetable bbq’s at the allotment; more recycling; more people growing things in their gardens; and weekly food redistribution [from a local market and from Sainsbury’s] used at a weekly meal for homeless people’ - Organic for all.
 

Longer Term Outcomes

As a generalisation, the two main longer-term outcomes emphasised in the case studies are continued community food growing and increased education and learning about many aspects of local food, but notably about access to and the health benefits of local food.

The pupils’ knowledge and awareness increases hugely and they are learning things that are never learnt anywhere else – where their food comes from, how to grow it themselves, and how to work with nature and look after wildlife - Fresh Food for Fresh Pupils

 

Above - The Veg Van as part of the Sustaining Sutton Project

Left - Children learning to grow their food as part of the Master Gardeners Project