Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

  • 27 July 2022

More investment in community-scale food supply chains could increase food system resilience

Image: John Bellamy

Image: John Bellamy

A new policy brief from a major research programme whose coordination team is based in the ECI has highlighted the role of small, local food enterprises in feeding communities in Covid-19, and recommends greater investment to allow these types of food providers to contribute to a more resilience UK food system.

The study, Making community-scale food systems more resilient: reorienting consumption practices by supporting community scale supply chain models, was conducted by researchers the Resilience of the UK Food System in a Global Context (GFS-FSR) programme.

The research focused on barriers to market faced by three community-scale food provision models - farmers markets, salad suppliers and community growers - as COVID-19 changed food consumption patterns.

During the pandemic, the small size and local ties of these food providers allowed for a quick response to the evolving demand for food. Farmers markets, salad suppliers and community growers were able to make healthy, locally grown foods more accessible while strengthening community ties through collaboration and volunteer opportunities.

Despite helping to enhance food security by making fresh food more accessible and strengthening community ties, community-scale businesses weren't able to maximise their resilience-enhancing potential for a number of reasons, including delays in food safety inspections, lack of guidance around COVID-safe working practices and unsuitable retail venues.

Interventions needed

The study makes the case for three types of intervention to fully realise the potential of community-scale food providers to enhance food system resilience.

  • Develop a geographically categorised, online network of community-scale food providers and provide a web platform to connect local suppliers and buyers.
  • Provide accessible venues for community-scale food sale and distribution, facilitate development of local food processing facilities, and increase access to public lands for food growing.
  • Give nutrition-based subsidies to community-scale growers, insurance schemes for community-scale food providers, and long-term grants for organisations assisting in local nutrition efforts, such as community food hubs

Dr John Ingram, Coordination Team Leader on the GFS FSR Programme and leader of the ECI's Food System Transformation Group said: "The pandemic revealed the important role that small, local food providers play in our food system. It's clear, however, that in order to fully explore these organisations' ability to enhance food system resilience, more investment and research is needed."

Download the policy brief



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