Last updated: April 2017
Growing an alternative ‘supermarket’ network
The sustainable food movement is growing, with new roots and shoots sprouting in different directions all over the country.
For the simplest alternative to supermarkets, find your local independent wholefood shop – the Whole Food Action website has a directory.
There are some truly inspiring businesses out there. The likes of Unicorn Grocery in Manchester and Hisbe in Brighton will cater for a weekly food shop, with the added bonus that the experience is infinitely nicer than entering a normal supermarket. Planet Organic in London claims to be “the UK’s largest fully certified organic supermarket”.
Clubbing together with a few people to bulk buy from a wholesaler is a good solution for many Suma offer free delivery on orders over £50. Find other wholefood suppliers on the Sustain website.
The companies offering veg boxes, either for doorstep delivery or local collection, vary widely. Market leaders, such as Abel and Cole and Riverford Organics, provide fresh produce, whereas social enterprises, such as Growing Communities in London and Veg Box People in Manchester, also provide a social good, helping to make local food production not only viable but vibrant.
The Soil Association’s website has a “find an organic veg box” tool. Your local wholefood shop may also be able to point you in the right direction. For our recent article and video, see our sustainable food section.
Farmers’ markets exist across the UK linking customers with local producers and providing thousands of farmers with a real lifeline. For a directory of markets, shops and farms where you can pick your own, see www.farma.org.uk. A directory of country markets is also available.
Food Assemblies provide an online market for food producers to sell to local people. Hosts organise a weekly online shop and a local pick-up market. There is no middleman: Members pay producers directly. The Food Assembly website claims this allows them to earn over 80% for their produce in comparison to 15-25% through supermarkets. The Food Assembly and the Hosts charge a service fee. There are a few Food Assemblies across the UK supported by the London Assembly.
Open Food Network and Food Hubs
OFN UK was launched in 2016 and is a co-operative of producers and food enterprises which is growing quickly. Producers grow, make, bake, rear, butcher and ferment while Food Hubs sell the produce of a range of producers. Producers and Hubs can set up profiles on the Network, which can be upgraded to online shops selling directly to customers.
According to OFN international’s website:
“Food systems we love need collaboration, trust and logistics. They need software that empowers us. We’re non-profit, and we’re open source. We’re ready to partner the food movement in your part of the world.”
Community Supported Agriculture
Community supported agriculture (CSA) is “a partnership between farmers and consumers in which the responsibilities, risks and rewards of farming are shared … It is one of the most radical ways that we can re-take control and ownership of our food system.”
There are different ways that consumers, or CSA members, can be involved in the production of their food, which may be through ownership or investment in a farm or through providing labour. Find a CSA near you.
BigBarn is a local food website which helps people to find good, safe, accountable food from local sources.
VegBox Recipes is for those who enjoy cooking with fresh veggies, but sometimes want inspiration!