Why FOOD hubs?

To get our society (Kent and UK) ready to deal with 21st century challenges we need to up our game in most, if not all, areas of society. Since we are struggling to keep up with all the different challenges we need to get our heads around, it is best, in our opinion, to start with the essentials to life; like food, water, shelter, clothing, and so on.

Food is at the core of how we live our lives. They say that you are what you eat. Our bodies are literally made up of the stuff we consume through our mouths. Sometimes we need reminding of such banalities to remember how important this actually is. Our lifestyles in Kent have evolved so much over the last centuries that we have started to take food for granted. That is a good thing but also risky.

Why risky you may ask? It is risky because: whilst we worry and pay attention to some thing or other that we find important right now, something else may actually pull the rug away from underneath our feet. This could quite easily happen in our current situation: think political chaos, breakdowns in international food supplies due to climate change, or any other vulnerability in the fine-tuned international supply chains we now depend on to feed ourselves.

So, in short: Food is one of the most important things to get right. Currently our food supplies are not as secure as they ought to be. And the way we source most of our food does not help us build the communities Kent needs to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Food hubs in Kent are going to help us change direction.

1 thought on “Why FOOD hubs?

  1. Martin Yarnit Reply

    I’m fascinated by this. I’ve written a report for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust on food hubs in the US and coops in Italy. I’ve also written this short context piece about how the coronavirus makes the search for new ways of producing and distributing food urgent and existential.

    Ten things Coronavirus has taught us about food – and what to do about it

    1. We are frighteningly dependent on the supermarket food distribution system. The panic buying which ran like wildfire through the developed world last month reflected a rational fear about the vulnerability of global supply chains as the virus swept through the world’s food production regions.
    2. Without factory food and massive food imports, the shelves would be bare. The news from abroad is grim. Seasonal migrant workers are staying home, leaving strawberries and asparagus to rot in Spain, Italy and southern France. Coldiretti, an Italian farmers association, estimates that they will be short of 100,000 foreign labourers. More than 25,000 people in the UK have responded to appeals from farmers to help with the spring and summer harvest, but that is way short of the workforce that descends on Britain at this time of year, mainly from eastern Europe.
    3. According to The Caterer, as a result of the lockdown, four in five adults have now stopped eating out-of-home totally, even for a takeaway. So with a corresponding rise in home cooking, supermarkets will struggle to cope with a massive rise in trade. And with social distancing measures in force, they will need to be open all hours to deal with queues of shoppers. Food shopping has become a crisis in its own right.
    4. Meanwhile, perhaps as a by-product of panic buying, local councils report a big rise in food wastage alongside an unprecedented demand for help from food banks. The Trussell Trust, which supports 1200 food banks, anticipates supplying 360,000 food parcels over the coming three months.
    5. To reduce dependence on food handouts, wages must rise – 14% of households referred to foodbanks have someone in employment – and the punitive Universal Credit system reformed.
    6. To reduce dependence on imports of food and labour, wages in the food sector itself must rise and the incomes of our small and medium sized producers must improve dramatically.
    7. To promote good food and eating, a key component of good health, we need as a nation to recognize that food is as much a matter of public concern as health and social care. That means investing in new systems of local production, distribution and marketing, and tackling the monopoly power of the supermarkets and wholesalers. Consumers realise that by supporting local farmers and getting milk delivered, we are also protecting our countryside.
    8. We should build on nascent local initiatives such as Bridport-based Local Food Links. Founded in 2007, this community interest company (CIC) uses four kitchens to cook and supply school meals using local produce (‘whenever we can’) to more than 50 schools, primarily in Dorset.
    9. Coronavirus has pointed to the urgent need to diversify the production and distribution of food and shorten supply chains for the good of our health and the countryside. The trouble is farmers’ markets and box schemes still account for a tiny proportion of the the UK’s annual grocery spend of £160bn. What we need is a radical scheme to challenge the domination of the supermarkets using public procurement and the disruptive power of the internet to promote new ways of doing business in the public interest.
    10. To that end, we should study alternative ways of producing and supplying food and learn from the experience of food hubs in the US and producer coops in Italy, two proven routes to a new sustainable food future. You can read my in-depth report on these at the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust website: https://www.wcmt.org.uk/sites/default/files/report-documents/Yarnit%20M%202017%20Final.pdf

    Martin Yarnit is a Churchill Fellow whose research was funded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

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