Projects star in Local Food film
Hundreds of green-fingered projects have been helped by the Local Food programme since it was awarded funding by the Big Lottery Fund in 2008. A number of these feature in a film being broadcast on the Community Channel in July and August.
In this guest blog, Mark Wheddon explains the impact of the programme to date and the variety of ways in which it is having an impact upon local communities.
The Community Channel is currently broadcasting a film from Local Food, the £59.8m Big Lottery Fund programme that distributes money to projects working to make local food more accessible and affordable to communities.
The film demonstrates how, as well as meeting this aim, Local Food projects are going far beyond it, having a much wider impact and helping to build community capacity in a number of different ways – such as improving the physical infrastructure of communities, encouraging social cohesion and boosting people’s education and skills – to name just a few.
The film showcases a handful of Local Food’s 500 or so projects around England – spanning the country from Northumberland to Devon to highlight the various impacts. The evidence underpinning the film is derived from an academic evaluation of Local Food by experts at the University of Gloucestershire’s Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI).
With such obviously good impacts, our focus here at Local Food is increasingly on how we can now build on these, and scale them up to reach a much larger number of communities – potentially bringing significant knock-on benefits for the wider economy and society as a whole.
Key to this will be successfully communicating the many benefits to policymakers. With this in mind, working again with CCRI, we are currently applying a Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis to the existing, largely qualitative academic research we’ve carried out to find out what the quantitative value of projects like ours can be – in particular the potential savings to be gained from investing in such projects from a public policy perspective.
For example, could we relieve pressure on the NHS by encouraging people with health problems to take part in food growing, rather than sending them down the traditional, costly route of drugs and therapy? What’s the economic benefit of equipping people with skills and knowledge through volunteering opportunities on community projects? And what quantifiable environmental impact are these relatively small-scale projects having, which once scaled up could start to make a real difference?
Answering questions like these will help us inform decisions about the future of UK food policy. England is said to have one of the highest obesity rates in the developed world, with a third of our children overweight. Not enough people are eating proper food as Britain succumbs to a ‘nutrition recession’. We have scandalous levels of food waste, rising food prices, and growing, major concerns about where our food comes from and what goes into it.
Clearly, there has never been a greater need for projects like Local Food’s, particularly those that encourage people to learn about where their food comes from, how to cook and prepare it, and in turn, how to value and appreciate it. Soon we should have the numbers to help make this case even more strongly. Watch this space.
Mark Wheddon is Programme Manager, Local Food
Local Food’s film will next be aired at 9pm on Thursday 1 August (Sky 539, Virgin 233) and again at 4am the following morning (Freeview 87).
What do you think of it? Have you dug deep and got involved in a Local Food project?
Leave your comments below or join the conversation on Twitter @biglotteryfund.