Tired of supermarket shopping for packaged junk? So are four city food projects.
Oh supermarkets. You are cheap, you are convenient, but sustainable? Not even close.
If I walk half a mile in either direction of my home in Brighton & Hove I will fall over six supermarkets, with a seventh currently under construction. Only two out of those seven shops require me to cross the road. Evolution wasted its time giving me legs.
As for the rest of the city, there are no official statistics, but I counted 47 chain supermarkets, which works out about one shop per 5,000 people. Is that too many? Residents certainly think so, and no new supermarket opens now without a slew of protests.
Placards aside, foodies of Brighton & Hove are at the forefront of the fight against the inexorable onslaught of strip lit aisles and bags of grated cheese. Here are just four projects aiming to get local, fresh and sustainable food back on our plates and into our bellies.
Harvest Brighton & Hove
Harvest B&H exist solely to get people growing and eating more local food. Jess Crocker, Harvest manager says, “We want to make the city the food growing capital of England.”
Alongside educational events, such as courses on balcony gardening, preserving and pickling and fermenting workshops, Harvest also acts as an umbrella organization for a number of offshoot projects. These include a garden share scheme, giving landless people who want to grow food access to unused gardens, The Scrumping Project, which collects excess fruit from trees around the city to turn into jams and juices, and the demonstration vegetable garden, a productive allotment placed in the middle of one of the city’s busiest parks where passers-by can see just how much food they can grow in a relatively small space.
Sisters Amy and Ruth Anslow want to fix the whole food system, from farmer to fork. It’s a big task, but the two women aren’t to be deterred. At the beginning of this year they both gave up their jobs to dedicate themselves to finding a way of making sustainable, fresh food accessible to everyone. They began by creating their “8 Everyday Choices,” a simple guide to making better food buying decisions. By the end of this year, they hope to have opened their first shop, something they describe as a middle ground between the cheapness and convenience of supermarkets and the expensive middle-class mazes of trendy organic boutiques.
They are currently negotiating a lease on premises in central Brighton, and in the meantime their campaigning continues, helping people navigate the complexities of what is sustainable and what isn’t.
Amy says: “There’s this perception that supermarkets are always cheaper. It’s drummed into us by the market but the reality is when you do a like for like comparison on a lot of produce from supermarkets to farm shops, farmers markets or independent stores there isn’t always a huge price differential and in a lot of cases its cheaper.”
Brighton and Hove Alternative to Supermarkets
Not unlike hiSbe, Brighton and Hove Alternative to Supermarkets recognizes that the food system is well and truly screwy. Initially, a few interested people got together to discuss opening a People’s Supermarket, but very quickly realized that another food shop might not be the answer to their wishes. They want to make sustainable, local food accessible to as many people as possible, and shops come with a number of inhibiting factors, such as overheads to drive up prices and their static nature restricting catchment area.
Ideas currently being looked at include a pop-up shop, a food delivery service, or a number of food pick-up points located around the city.
Members of BHATS include academics, people who work with NGOs, co-operatives, and think tanks for food poverty. While they are taking their time formulating a cunning plan, they are all motivated by something much larger than profit.
Moulsecoomb Forest Garden and Wildlife Project
Proving the vital link between food and community, Moulsecoomb Forest Garden and Wildlife Project is dedicated to reducing anti-social behavior and helping young people who have been excluded from school by teaching them how to plant, grow and cook their own food. Based in one of the most deprived areas of Brighton, the project has helped countless teenagers and improved their long term employability by giving them skills when the schools system had given up on them.
That’s what I call, sustainable.