Interest in activities with a food focus emerged from a lifestyle audit carried out in Pembroke by the Pembroke Can Make a Difference (PCMAD) subgroup of Pembroke 21C Community Association in 2009. Food related issues also arose during the recent community consultation carried out by Pembroke 21C to develop Pembroke’s 2020 Community Plan. These included:
- Community gardens and/or a series of local growing schemes on green areas
- Encouraging people to choose and grow more of their own food
- Encourage more local shopping or car share schemes to shops
- Establish more local food shops
A Stage 1 grant from the Environment Wales Supporting Sustainable Living scheme enabled research into the potential for PCMAD to run activities that will encourage people in the town to make changes to their eating habits which will have climate change benefits. The findings have helped us to develop a project focussed on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that arise from local food choices and improving resilience to the effects of climate change
Apart from the results of the recent consultations identifying local food as an important community issue, the principle reasons for focusing on behaviour related to food are two fold:
- The significant GHG emissions related to the food system – around one fifth of UK emissions
- The significant power of food to engage people in thinking about more sustainable behaviour
Further, making changes to eating local seasonal food offers wider benefits for individuals and the community than simply reducing GHG emissions and improving resilience to climate change. Food projects also have social, health, educational and economic benefits as well as other environmental benefits. Pembroke 21C has a policy for developing holistic and fully sustainable projects.
Health benefits can include improved health through better diets and reduced exposure to hazardous chemicals for both workers and consumers. Diets which are more climate-friendly are also healthier containing less meat and fat and more vegetables. There are also health benefits associated with growing food which provides activity for improving both physical and mental health.
There are very real social benefits to growing food and particularly growing food communally. It provides a positive social experience for people from all walks of life to come together thus promoting social inclusion. It can provide opportunities for training and improving skills as well as life long learning.
Growing and buying more food locally creates jobs and helps boost the local economy. For example, farmers markets are generally welcomed by existing retailers who find that their business increases due to the extra shoppers.
Locally produced food can improve biodiversity through good land management practices which also reduce pollution through the use of fewer pesticides and fertilisers.
Food is therefore so much more than what we eat. It affects our health and well-being, our culture and our natural environment, our security and prosperity.