Food is at the heart of many of the UK’s biggest social, economic and environmental challenges, with food systems currently accounting for 21-37% of total greenhouse gases - it's a massive problem. In Oxfordshire, the carbon footprint of food is shockingly double that of cars! With issues such as chronic food waste, reliance on imported food, 8-10% of people in Oxfordshire experiencing food poverty & low pay for famers/food workers, this situation cannot continue.
Good Food Oxfordshire is a vibrant network of over 150 local organisations working together since 2014 to create food systems that are good for the Planet, People and Communities. We are part of a wider network across the UK & the first county to achieve a Bronze ‘Sustainable Food Places’ Award in May 2021, as well as presenting at the Planet Mark Zero Carbon Tour.
We work with consumers to support a more sustainable diet, with producers to ensure sustainable agricultural practices & with supply chains to ensure they facilitate this whole process.
The power of GFO is in our collective impact – joining together makes us bigger, better and more visible,
to the public and policymakers. The organisations we work with sign our charter committing to our collective vision and pledging how they will work towards this goal.
Training - we run growing and cookery workshops to boost skills and confidence, with practical advice to help local communities grow their own food. We work with large institutional caterers/procurers to support them to develop and measure their food sustainability, to reduce energy, water and food waste with all the social, economic and environmental benefits that brings.
Resources – our website has links to a wealth of information. How to find sustainable food outlets such as
restaurants, cafes, veg box deliveries, food larders. Our Facebook group shares ideas and inspiration, toolkits for cooking and growing healthy, sustainable food.
Consultancy - we offer support on a wide range of subjects, including embedding good food policies, creating healthier, more sustainable menus.
Networking events – we bring members together to share ideas on issues such as reducing the use of disposables/food waste, creating/promoting carbon-friendly menus.
Support with Funding – expert advice and links to grants. We provide mini-grants to support initiatives.
Research – we work with our local authority and university for up to date information/policy.
Activities – fun festivals, local producer markets, low carbon lunches bring our community together.
Campaigns – by displaying Food Oxfordshire window stickers the public know the action our members are taking eg, Climatarian Kitchen where meals are priced according to the environmental cost of the dish.
Working together – we support farmers and growers to promote biodiversity and regenerative agro-ecological farming. We find solutions together to combat climate change.
Good Food Oxfordshire started with a small group of like-minded organisations who realised that we needed to do something about food. As we started to grow we realised that what we were doing was making an impact and needed formalising. So we formed into an organisation and employed a staff member.
My advice is to be mindful of not losing that original sense of collective responsibility and collective action as you grow. Our job at Good Food Oxfordshire is not to do everything for everyone but to facilitate and advocate the great work that our member organisations are doing. Keeping all the organisations engaged and adding value is ultimately more powerful than doing it on your own. We share good practice and challenges to inspire and inform, raise awareness at policy level, amplify small voices and share needs and information.
Sharing metrics can help to put into context how the actions people take in their everyday lives can make a huge difference. People understand the abstract idea that supporting box delivery schemes, local farmers markets and local retailers committed to ethical sourcing helps reduce the climate impact of our food.
But to see that for every £1 spent with veg box schemes or local markets, up to £3.70 is generated in social, environmental, and economic benefits is a statistic that makes a powerful impact.
We work as a backbone organisation and as food is such a big system this works really well. We do run projects, to plug gaps or to demonstrate ideas as pilot schemes, but our aim is that these will be picked up and be taken on board by the larger organisations to become mainstream.
We have found that now our organisation operates at county level we are able to impact the public and the decision-makers more effectively. Being a part of larger networks and supporting initiatives such as The Planet Mark Zero Carbon Tour is invaluable.
We found difficulties arose in communicating to the breath of people that we reach. There is a huge range in income, background, knowledge and understanding and individuals have different priorities and needs. We need to ensure that our approach is relevant and accessible to everyone.
It is also important to keep a balance between focusing on your goal and being opportunistic. Covid unexpectedly highlighted the issues of food access and food poverty so we were able to invest in the work we were already doing in this area and engage the council into taking action to develop a Food Strategy for Oxfordshire. This will tackle the issues the food system is facing but only came to the forefront because of the situation.
Our experience continues to be a journey, but is a great example of the power of working and being stronger together. We will continue to take opportunities where they come and use them to progress our cause, align our vision, and bring people along on the things that matter to them.
Number of people pledging action to improve our food systems.