Local Food – How to make it happen in your community

Tamzin Pinkerton & Rob Hopkins: Local Food – How to make it happen in your community, 2009, Transition Books, Green Books, £12.95, ISBN 978-1-900322-43-0, 216 pages.

This is an inspirational and practical guide for creating food initiatives, showing how we can restore and establish community networks to generate healthy, locally produced food. Drawing on the practical experience of Transition initiatives and other community projects around the world, this book demonstrates the power of working collaboratively. In today's culture of supermarkets and food miles, an explosion of activity at community level is urgently needed. This book is the ideal place to start.

“Local Food” is written by two veterans in the Transition movement, which is still a very young movement but with lots of experience already. Most of the examples used in the book come from the UK but there are also examples from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

The book has got chapters on: the local food movement, the great reskilling, home garden growing in the community, allotment provision and gardening for community groups, garden shares, community gardens, community orchards, community supported agriculture, farmers' markets, food cooperatives. Local food guides and directories, school projects on local food, local food events, expanding local food projects, yet more inspired ideas, the local food project and beyond.

There is a very useful resource list on relevant web sites, books, places to visit/contacts for ideas and advice, etc. The book is very engaging in its style without preaching. You want to get started when you have read it.

But why should communities start growing their own food rather than just continue to get it from the supermarkets? Because in a few years time we may be forced to do so – just like we were during the second world war. And it is better to be prepared and relearn the skills of growing before we are forced to do so.

So why are we likely to be forced to change our food system? All energy prices are likely to increase sharply in the next few years. This is not just the Greens that say so, but also the International Energy, UK businesses like Virgin, etc. This will make food prices go drastically up as transport, fertilisers, processing, etc will become a lot more expensive. The UK Cabinet Office said in 2008: “Existing patterns of food production are not fit for a low-carbon, more resource-constrained future”.

Climate change is another reason for local food production. In order to meet our CO2 reduction targets we cannot import large quantitative of food from all over the world. We have to eat locally produced food that is organic and sustainable. This also happens to be more healthy food.

Community food production has a lot of social benefits: it breaks down social isolation (which in turn improves mental health and self confidence), it creates ommunity solidarity, helping each other, which can open doors for other community projects – like local energy production and it is the best way of changing people's behavior. Government campaigns, like on energy saving, are usually addressed to the individuals or a single household These campaigns are often ineffective where changing people's attitude is easier when it is done in their peer groups.

So do not wait for the government to change our food system. Start now and get help from “Local Food”.