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   Inside Out - East: Monday January 27, 2003


Locally produced food
GO GREEN | Locally produced food saves the environment as well as your health

Think less MacDonalds and more Old MacDonalds farm, as Inside Out go back to basics.

Transporting food is bad for the environment, so what is the alternative?

100 years ago nearly all the food we ate came from within 20 miles of our homes. Now you’d find it difficult to find more than a handful of locally produced foods in your supermarket.

This is bad news for the environment, bad news for our motorways and roads, and bad news for our bodies.

Inside Out has given one Cambridge family the task of turning back the clock for a week to live on nothing but locally produced food.

Back to basics

Richard pushing a trolley
Richard is forced to return home with nothing but a bag of potatoes - will his family go off their trolley?

Richard Newman and his family get off to a poor start. Out of a whole supermarket trolley piled high with goodies, only one item is locally produced. So Richard, along with his small bag of locally produced potatoes, returns to a hungry family.

Mashed potatoes may be delicious with a juicy sausage and gravy, but with no meat and not even any salt or butter to season, the family’s first meal is far from appetising. Oh well Richard, better luck for tomorrow!

Bleary eyed without his regular coffee fix and extremely hungry from last night’s meagre meal, Richard faces another day of food hunting.

Richard’s shops may be local, but the produce on offer certainly isn’t. All Richard comes away with is a few vegetables and the prospect that tonight’s meal may be no improvement on last night’s mash!

Shaping the environment

Food transportation

"Part of the problem that has emerged is an increasing movement of food on our road systems."
Jules Pretty

  • 1/4 of all trucks on our roads are carrying food
  • 1/3 of all trucks transporting food are running empty
  • Almost as much greenhouse gas is created by moving food than by all power stations in the UK

Fortunately for Richard and the rest of the family, the local butcher's comes up trumps. Local fruit juice, partridge and chipolatas - it’s a start.

Finding local produce is a time consuming business, but according to Professor Jules Pretty of the University of Essex, we only have ourselves to blame.

"If people know something about their food and where it’s come from, they will realise that they have a role to play in shaping what we might want to see in the environment, but also in shaping their own health," says Jules, author of Agri-Culture.

Richard’s ever difficult quest to find local food, brings him face to face with one of the oldest ways of getting fed - hunting.

In a stew

Richard, Nina and a dead rabbit
Richard goes back to basics

Richard is let-off with the task off killing, but that is not to say that the task of preparing the rabbit is any easier.

Skinning the rabbit is an eye opening and stomach turning experience and really forces Richard to acknowledge where food actually comes from, something that Jules heartily approves of.

"Food has become more anonymous. We don’t understand where it comes from. It’s become more convenient, it’s abundant. We just eat it and continue our lives," says Jules.

The week ends with a somewhat potent smelling rabbit stew and an exhausted Richard.

Food from afar

Jules Pretty
Jules Pretty warns of the environmental implications of food transportation

"It’s the time it’s taken to find things. The ringing around, going to buy the food. I’ve driven about 150 miles to get the produce… Not having a night off and being able to throw a lasagne in the oven," says Richard.

So would the family volunteer again? The answer - a resounding ‘No’.

Buying locally may not be the easiest task, especially when a luring well stocked supermarket lurks nearby. But if we as a nation are to tackle the mammoth food transportation problem and improve our health in the process, we better start trying says Jules.

"Just the last two generations, we have adopted very different diets, high in fats, high in sugars. Childhood obesity has risen three fold in the last 20 years. Many children will pre-desease their parents," and that's certainly food for thought!

See also ...

Buy Local (News)

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East Anglia farmers' markets
Local food

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

F Weatherspoon
As a allergy suffer i need to eat organic food in the hope that i dont have an attack we all need to be awear of what we are eating and what is in it for own saftey and with a little more effort we could achive the highest standerds within the food chain.

Clare Stimson
With a little planning, it isn't that hard to buy much of your food locally, but it's unrealistic to expect bananas, chillies and coffee. Buying from local greengrocers, markets, farm shops and farmers markets should cover fruit and veg, drinks, meat,eggs and cheese. We need to try and reduce our impact, but it can't all be done overnight.

Mrs S Clark
I believe we should show more programmes about this issue. I would very much like to change my shopping & eating habbits to include more locally grown produce, particularly organic.

Matt MacLeod
It was good to see that there was a link to on the website supporting this episode of the show. This site is the best place to go for those wishing to find local food producers, however Richard's comments about the additional time it takes to source your food locally are valid.

It is much quicker to visit a supermarket once a week and be done with it, but by supporting local producers you get fresher, better tasting food, and the producers themselves benefit by being less reliant on the powerful supermarkets who currently buy their produce for very low prices.

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