Councillor challenges council to source all its food locally

A borough council could be a shining example of green thinking by sourcing all of its food from Shropshire, a councillor said.

Harper Adams near Newport is a leading agricultural university
Harper Adams near Newport is a leading agricultural university

Councillor Tim Nelson, for Newport North and West, proposed a 'think green, think local' strategy to the council at its last full meeting and said that the agricultural expertise at Harper Adams University near Newport could play a part.

It followed the introduction earlier this year of the council's climate change action plan which committed the council to ensure its operations are carbon neutral by 2030.

Cllr Nelson told the meeting: "The council are taking great strides in tackling climate change emissions. The climate change action plan had been promised as a ‘live’ document, and I know now that progress is being made.

"There is an opportunity to add some more focused strategic direction [to the plan]. We can make the thrust and intention of the plans more accessible beyond the council."

He said that the idea was inspired by the coronavirus lockdown and the resulting increase in people buying from independent, local producers.

"I ask you all to recall that brief period of peace, when the turmoil and stress stopped, the sun shone and we all looked inwards to our own homes, and then inward to our own communities and localities.

"People explored their local area, walking and cycling, as families. People shopped in their local areas, even in their own corner shop. Some people started growing their own food.

'The council could be a leader in sourcing all food it buys locally'

"The corner shop near me was closed for years, it is now open and trading again. This shop you can visit on foot, you can access it away from main roads, and appreciate peace.

"I will leave you with one opportunity in particular, and that is for a local food policy. This would be a public work, a plan, to define how we might source our food more locally, and more sustainably – with a better, fresher, more seasonal diet using the best of Shropshire produce, with short transport routes, and supporting the local economy. Shropshire is a great food producing county.

"Telford & Wrekin Council could be a leader in sourcing all food it buys locally. The council could thus influence land use intensity, and so mitigate soil depletion, or influence insecticide regimes, and thus reduce the loss of insect biodiversity.

"We know both are grave problems nationally, and locally. And we have experts, home grown on our own doorstep.

"There is the elite centre of food expertise at Harper Adams University in our own borough. Former professor Mr Ralph Early is a published leader in local food policy, he has volunteered his help.

"A local food policy could be but one part of a powerful and successful Think Green, Think Local strategy."

Cllr Andrew Eade, Conservative group leader and councillor for Church Aston and Lilleshall, supported the suggestion and said: "It is not enough for this council to simply pay lip service to, or recognise the importance of developing a local green economy; we have to grasp this one off opportunity to break the mould and our post-war patterns of life.

"Food takes a significant portion of personal expenditure and food produced locally allows this spend to be retained in the local economy.

"Milk is produced organically and sold locally where I live and it is a network of the production of like local produce that we should help establish, support and expand by all means possible."

The strategy was not debated at the meeting but was instead referred to the council's cabinet to discuss.

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