What does the future hold for sustainable food networks?

Let’s start things off this week with a trip back in time.

The year is 2016, and while wheeling another load of organic Lambs Lettuce likely costing more than a whole day’s wages back to the chiller, I’m greeted by an all too familiar sight.

Another confused customer has approached the zero waste refill section at Whole Foods in Giffnock, and after severely underestimating the size of a repurposed jam jar, has managed to spill fairtrade quinoa across the floor.

I thank my stars I’m working in the fresh produce rather than grocery and carry right on walking.

In hindsight, I was far from a model employee.  

This was one of the many ‘in-between’ jobs of my early 20s before returning to college to study journalism and one I had pursued purely after falling in love with the store’s kale juicing, tofu-slinging and all-round healthy living vibes.

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There were artisan products unavailable anywhere else in the city, a hot lunch bar full of fresh ingredients like sauteed rainbow chard or Isle of Wight tomatoes and although eye-wateringly expensive, every aisle seemed to promise a better food future that championed local producers and eco-friendly practices.

A year later the only Scottish branch of the business would be closed for good with staff made redundant.

A Lidl now stands in its place.

When Locavore opened its retail shop on Victoria Road, I was thrilled to find the same sustainable, minimal waste ethos, made all the better for the fact that it was a homegrown venture that had its roots firmly planted in the local community.

From then on, I enjoyed a weekend walk around the shop, cherry-picking bits and pieces I could afford to add some ethically sourced goodness to my cupboards.

The Herald:
But they too would have a difficult decision to make, as an ‘ambitious and ill-timed expansion’ saw the company forced into administration this year.

In an exclusive interview with The Herald, founder Reuben Chesters has spoken of what comes next for Locavore as the core assets of the social enterprise are saved by the newly formed Chard Holding Group.

Despite past issues with footfall and securing stock, he remains adamant that building ‘sustainable local food networks’ is paramount for both our health and that of the planet as a climate catastrophe looms.

In an ideal world, I’d agree.

But, amid the cost-of-living crisis even supermarket shopping trips are stretching budgets to breaking points, it remains to be seen whether the idea is truly viable.

Coupled with the fallout of the pandemic, I can’t help but wonder if the world has simply become too different a place since the heyday of Whole Foods, where shoppers quite rightly have bigger concerns than the origins of what fills their fridges.

There’s certainly no quick fix, and for now, we can only do our best to continue supporting local and small-scale producers where possible.

Just mind and remember an appropriately sized container for those pesky refill stations.

Look out for the full interview with Reuben Chesters on The Herald website next week.

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