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Why Food Security Matters 07/12/2015, Health & Lifestyle

I founded fresh-range.com not only to provide exceptional food shopping experiences for our customers and to create a food retail system that works better for producers, but also to create food security for generations to come. Simply put, we are seeking to develop the infrastructure needed for food in Bristol and Bath that will withstand future insecurities outside of our own direct control. 

Why is food security important?

A 2014 piece of research conducted by PwC and funded by Asda found that 95% of Asda’s food was at risk from climate change. You won’t be surprised to read that it’s not only Asda’s food that is at risk. The issue is that over the past few decades we have returned to relying on large monoculture industrial producers at home and abroad. Imported food represents nearly half the food we eat through major supermarkets.

This means our dependence on mass supermarket supply chains puts us at the whim of economic or environmental issues abroad, issues frankly that are outside our own control. If the price of oil spikes, it means our food price soars. Worse still, if there is an environmental issue in a country that impacts on production then the governments of that country will inevitably restrict food exports and keep more of the food they need for themselves.

A blockage of our roads or ports can quickly result in a food shortage. It happened in 2000 during the fuel price crisis. After seven days of blockades, supermarket chiefs told our government that we were just a few days from empty shelves if they didn’t resolve the crisis.

Intensive animal farms here in UK rely on grains and soya that are predominantly shipped from overseas. The over reliance on oil is not restricted solely to the cost of transporting from abroad. The majority of our food produced here in UK is dependent on oil in the form of chemical fertilizers, pesticides.

So, a dangerously high proportion of our food supply relies on factors outside our control – it is effectively vulnerable to commodity price fluctuations and environmental risks abroad.

During the 2nd World War one of the greatest challenges facing this country was the fact that we relied so heavily on food being imported. Our enemies were intent on starving Britain to submission. Back then, we responded to the challenge and significantly increased production through market gardens and mixed use or biodiverse farms based in the countryside outside our cities to feed the population. Farms successfully combined the growing of crops, fruits and vegetables with grazing animals in the fields and applied a rotation such that the animals acted as natural fertilizers.

Since then, the percentage of our food supply produced here in UK has returned to pre-war levels. Of course, the UK population has substantially grown since then, compounding the severity of the insecurity we face.

So what is fresh-range doing about food security?

We encourage customers to buy their food shopping from local producers. By shifting urban demand for food to a local supply chain we can increase local production and significantly reduce our exposure to the risks above. There are thousands of acres of top grade rich agricultural soil surrounding Bristol and Bath that is not currently used to feed our cities. Existing mixed use farms who can increase supply so long as there is demand. A vision of thriving rural communities that are put to work to feed our cities is very much realisable.

We have established effective supply chains with local food and drink producers and continue to add more; farmers who grow dozens of species of seasonal fruit and vegetables across the year within one hour of the city; farms that are raising animals in pasture – meaning healthier grass fed meats and a lower dependence on foreign imports of feed – again all within one hour. We are sourcing fish from sustainable local sources in Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall. Information about the provenance of all local food producers and suppliers in one store brings a transparency about where food is produced, enabling customers to order a full food shop and say goodbye to the supermarket shelf altogether.

In addition to the longer term food security benefits food shopping with fresh-range brings, there are, many other rewarding benefits that fresh-range customers can enjoy immediately. Here are 3 of them:

1.      Fresher foods: All foods marked with the fresh-range stamp on our online store are delivered virtually directly from the farmer, fisherman, maker or baker. Fresher foods can mean better taste and higher nutritional value.

2.      Lower prices: We keep food miles to a minimum, reduce waste and cut out the middle men. By sourcing fresh produce directly from local producers and immediately delivering it to customers, we virtually eliminate the need for physical stores allowing us to keep the cost down for you. And because we pay the producers the majority of the retail price, they are willing to reduce their prices for you.

3.      Convenient delivery: We deliver in sustainable, reusable, wool lined boxes – not a carrier bag in sight! This means customers don’t have to commit to being in to take delivery. It also means we can pick the lowest carbon and cost delivery route which keeps delivery costs low – currently just £1 for delivery in Bristol.

 

Rich Osborn, Fresh-range founder and director

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