Myths & Facts about local food

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					Myths and Facts about the Benefits of Local Food

There are many claims made about the positive impacts of local food. Finding out what impacts
local food does have is not straightforward. A recent review of the local food sector in Scotland
found no existing indicators of impacts and failed to quantify the scale of any of the main impacts of
local food in Scotland.

The impacts of local food are produced as a bundle of benefits when local food is consumed.
Measuring the multiple benefits of local food is particularly difficult, so the effects can be split into
four categories, some key measured impacts being:

Economic impacts:
Perception: The economic impacts of local food is “small scale, diffuse and scattered” by nature (A review of the local
food sector in Scotland, HEBS, 2003)
Reality:
    For every £10 spent on an organic box scheme, £24 is generated in the local economy; and by comparison, every
    £10 spent in a supermarket generates £12 for the local food economy (Plugging the Leaks, New Economic
    Foundation 2001)
    a switch of 1% of consumer spending on food in Cornwall to purchasing from local produces rather than
    supermarkets has increased local business income by £52M (The Money trail – measuring your impact on the local
    economy using LM3, New Economics Foundation, 2002)
    28% of local food sector businesses in UK created new jobs in 2003, compared to just 1% of national food
    companies (The development of the local food sector 2000 to 2003 and its contribution to sustainable development,
    F3, 2003)
    diversification into processing and retailing of food from the farm is rated by farmers who attend farmers markets,
    as top survival strategy for their business (Farmers Market Business survey, National Farmers Union, 2000)

Health impacts:
Perception: “just as food shortages have been largely conquered in industrialised countries, so diets have become a
major public health cost. On average, people now consume more food calories than they burn, and consume types of
food constituents that are making them ill.” (Green Exercise: complementary roles of nature, exercise and diet in
physical and emotional well being and implications for public health policy, J Pretty et al, University of Essex, 2003)
Reality:
    community allotments and other growing projects have been shown to lead to lasting change in the intake of fruit
    and vegetables among participants (Great oaks from little acorns grow, D Carlisle, Health Development Today, 4,
    2003)
    Community food initiatives deliver healthy food, increase awareness of a better diet and build self-confidence to
    choose a better diet (ibid.)
    over 60% of local food businesses believe that they have increased their community’s access to fresh produce (The
    development of the local food sector 200 to 2003 and its contribution to sustainable development, F3, 2003)
    fresh, local, organic vegetables are 40 times less likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues than
    conventional, supermarket vegetables (The benefits of developing local food links, Soil Association, 2003)

Community and social impacts:
Perception: “Local food is not seen to have a major role in meeting social need, principally because of the value-
adding/ premium seeking approach of the food industry” (A review of the local food sector in Scotland, HEBS, 2003)
Reality:
         Over 20% of CSAs in the US provide specifically for low income members through using sliding scales of
         income-based share pricing, and providing free produce for local food schemes (A share in the harvest – an
         action manual, G Pilley, 2003)
         only 1 in 10 or less community food initiatives are linked to fresh food suppliers from their local area
         (Growing Interest – community food growing conference report, Scottish Community Diet Project, 2003)
         the majority of community food initiatives use a combination of volunteers, lay staff and professional staff to
         deliver services (ibid.)
         local food businesses are twice as likely to be involved in collaborative or co-operative ventures with other
         businesses as national food businesses (Relocalising the food chain: the role of creative public procurement,
         Cardiff University, 2003)
Environmental impacts:
Perception: “300 times less CO2 is emitted in the production and distribution of spring onions by a UK box scheme
operator, than by having them grown in Mexico, flown to the UK, trucked to a supermarket and bought on a car-borne
shopping trip” (Local Food – a snapshot of the sector, DEFRA, 2003)
Reality:
         for every kilogram of produce purchased at a farmers market, 187 grams of CO2 is emitted; for the equivalent
         produce purchased at a nearby supermarket the one kilogram will generate 431 grams of CO2 (Some benefits
         and drawbacks of local food systems, University of Essex, 2002)
         SW England farms selling direct to their customers sell on average 48% of their produce within 15 miles of
         their farm, whilst those selling via wholesalers sell only 4% of their farm produce within 15 miles of their farm
         (Local Food and Farming briefing, Devon County Council, 2002)
         farms supplying directly to local consumers are 6 times more likely to use organic production techniques as
         those selling to wholesalers (The development of the local food sector 2000 to 2003 and its contribution to
         sustainable development, F3, 2003)
         farms supplying directly to local consumers are 4 times more likely to use waste reduction techniques as those
         selling to wholesalers (ibid.)

				
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