Local food supply chains and Food Sense Wales

Local food supply chains and Food Sense Wales

The journey food takes from farms to our plates isn’t always transparent.

As a nation we can be quite far removed from the farming system – so it’s critical that the next generation understands where good food comes from. 

Food Sense Wales is helping to do that with its Welsh Veg in Schools project. Building on the findings of the ‘Courgette pilot’ that was undertaken in 2022, Food Sense Wales has since developed a network of local growers and a wholesaler to get local vegetables into primary schools in Cardiff, Carmarthenshire and Monmouthshire, supporting organic producers to supply even more local schools. 

Sourcing food locally can reduce emissions and helps to ensure growers receive a fair price for their produce – not to mention the social good that these projects can bring, giving local people a closer connection to local farms. 

The project has seen great success, expanding the number of growers supplying into the wholesaler, Castell Howell. The current Welsh Veg in Schools project is being supported by the Welsh Government’s Backing Local Firms Fund. 

Food Sense Wales Programme Manager Katie Palmer said: “There was a lot of talk around local procurement being difficult – but we wanted to try it for ourselves. 

“During our initial courgette pilot in 2022, we tried one product, with one grower working with a wholesaler and one local authority. 

“This produced nearly a tonne of courgettes, and we’ve now expanded supporting nature-friendly farmers and bringing good-quality food to as many schoolchildren as possible.” 

Connecting to nature 

The project has seen success on the business side, connecting local farmers with wholesalers and fostering relationships that have helped nearby businesses flourish. 

Supporting agroecological farming, this project has given growers a key income stream. Additionally, their work has provided key opportunities for children to connect with nature and farming. 

Katie said: “The big highlights for me are the farm visits – the children have loved seeing how their food is grown. 

“They’ve had the chance to try new food and make things like beetroot houmous. Seeing their faces light up when they pull a carrot out of the ground has been amazing.” 

Food Sense Wales

Food for the future 

Soil Association Certification’s Organic Market Report 2024 has shown that the organic market grew 2% in 2023 to reach £3.2 billion but it has also called for a ‘radical rethink’ to reap the benefits for farmers, nature and the planet. 

Despite the performance, the sectors heavy reliance on imports means that many farmers are currently missing out on the potential benefits it can bring to them and the businesses. Shopper spend on organic is a third higher than it was five years ago, but organic farmland has stayed static at 3%. 

A major focus for the upcoming year is to improve the availability of organic food and stimulate demand for more home grown organic produce – projects like this will play a huge role in ensuring this succeeds. 

Food Sense Wales is continuing to develop and scale the project, expanding the initiative with more councils and working to increase their output.  

Katie said: “We aren’t producing anywhere near enough veg in Wales.” 

“This work enables us to innovate and redesign supply chains with stakeholders, making them fairer and more resilient – building our own supply base rather than relying on imports. 

“A project of this scale has been challenging as well as rewarding and building relationships with key stakeholders across the supply chain has been vital to its success. Expertise from organisations such as Farming Connect Horticulture, has helped us spot key opportunities, overcome tricky challenges and bring a sense of collective endeavour. 

“At its heart, Food Sense Wales is about enabling sustainably produced, local veg to nourish children via their school meals – the more progress we make, the more benefit we can deliver to them.” 

Download the Organic Market Report 2024 for a summary of trends in  the organic market in the UK today.