There is a buzz around food projects in Wales and it’s a flourishing area for community based action. Food is something that everyone can relate to and eating is something that we are all experts at in our own way. There are many commendable examples of community food projects across the country but a community association based in Pembroke is embarking on a food project with a difference.
Pembroke Can Make a Difference, a sub group of the much respected Pembroke 21C Community Association has just launched “Pembroke Food –celebrating local and seasonal produce”, a project which will take an innovative approach to encouraging and enabling local people to grow, buy, cook and eat more local and seasonal fruit and vegetables.
The project has been funded with Welsh Government’s Support for Sustainable Living grants through Environment Wales. This funding allowed the group to initially do some impressive research into the environmental benefits of various food behaviours, the likelihood of these being adopted and the perceived barriers and benefits of the recommended target behaviours. This scoping report reinforced what the group had learnt through extensive community consultation- that there was an appetite for a food project in the town. The project is a culmination of the group’s intrinsic local knowledge and the informed recommendations of the research’s scoping report.
The project is broadly following a Community Based Social Marketing model – (see Dr Doug Mckenzie-Mohr’s free online book for more information). The group has gone to great lengths to explore the barriers and benefits of eating more local and seasonal produce. Project activities have been designed to deal directly with overcoming the barriers while celebrating the benefits and behaviour change tools recommended in CBSM have been woven into project activities.
The group aims to engage local shops to stock more seasonal and local fruit and vegetables. Retailers will be helped to promote their local and seasonal produce with ready-made point of sale materials, provided by the group, marked with a “local food” logo. To carry the Local Food mark, produce will have been sourced from within the county or no more than 30 miles from Pembroke.
Shops will be encouraged to introduce ‘BOGOF’ deals or other promotions. The group’s research highlighted this as a major reason for customers choosing supermarkets over independent stores and thus would help them to compete with the supermarkets. The aim is to make buying local and seasonal produce the default choice for customers.
The group will organise a number of complimentary events in the community facilitating people to grow more, cook more, and value choosing local and seasonal.
The project will be backed up by a dedicated website which will highlight the participating stores and local suppliers. It will also be a source of information about what’s in season, suggested recipes, home growing and a celebration of how local people are getting involved.
The website will host a place for local people to make online pledges or “Pembroke Promises” about which food behaviours they will adopt or what they are already doing. Showcasing what people are doing or pledging will help people to stay committed whilst paving the way for others to make changes. There will also be links for people to complete food diaries-another useful tool to help people to set themselves goals and maintain changes in their food related behaviour.
The group is looking to establish a community growing space and help people to grow their own. Various off-shoot activities are being explored, such as a local garden share scheme and even initiating a town-wide movement of communal growing spaces in the vein of “Incredible Edible Todmorden”.
Ultimately it is hoped that food can be the carrot (pun intended) that gets people interested in making sustainable choices in other aspects of their lifestyle.
The Pathfinder programme has been accompanying the group as a critical friend on their journey and has been struck by the professionalism and dedication of the project staff and volunteers. The group have shown an openness and willingness to explore and adopt behaviour change theory and techniques. Similarly they have set themselves ambitious targets and are working hard to measure the impact the project will have, an area in which Pathfinder has been able to offer some support. The group has overcome many barriers on its journey. This experience makes them well placed to understand how to help others do the same in their food related behaviour.
To find out more see the website: www.pembrokefood.org.uk