With the growing debate on the future of the high street and the rise of ‘food deserts’ as quality food stores leave urban areas we should perhaps take time to step back and think about the various functions of the towns and cities which we serve and live in.
It is comparatively easy to see the benefit of regeneration and development of a physical space and done well it is hugely important because it affects the quality of life of the people who live or work in that space. What is harder to capture but also affects the quality of people’s lives is the network of services available to them in that space. One of the key services is the provision of a safe, sustainable and healthy food supply chain. This supply chain has to be able to supply food from the very basic needs of sustenance to food that allows us to celebrate occasions with friends and family. In the process this supply chain creates opportunities in the local economy (from producing to warehousing to retailing and catering).
If the place gets the balance wrong it can lead to food poverty with all the social issues that can create. A bad food supply chain can also lead to a poor food reputation with all the economic impacts this can bring to a high street. If a place gets food right it can lead to fewer health problems and a vibrant food economy.
Sustainable Food Cities promote the idea of a holistic approach to food in a place.Their national awards captures part of the hidden partnership of third sector, public sector and private sector organizations that give a place a soul. To achieve the award a city has to prove it has had impact on six key issues:
- Promoting healthy and sustainable food to the public.
- Tackling food poverty, diet-related ill-health and access to affordable healthy food.
- Building community food knowledge, skills, resources and projects.
- Promoting a vibrant and diverse sustainable food economy.
- Transforming catering and food procurement.
- Reducing waste and the ecological footprint of the food system.
I am really proud that this year our city has been awarded a Bronze Award by the Sustainable Food Cities. Carlisle is in good company with other award winners been Aberdeen, County Durham, Oldham and Oxford. It is not an easy award to achieve but with a bit of determination and true partnership working, cities the size of Carlisle (population around 100,000) can sit at the same level as Manchester.
Working towards the award gives the various city stakeholders a common goal ( we all understand the importance of good healthy food) and if your place hasn’t already looked at this award I would suggest you check out http://sustainablefoodcities.org/about .