Earlier in the year, GFO carried out some in-depth research of its network members. Membership covers the whole food sector from farmers and producers to restaurants and retailers, with a smattering of community groups and educational organisations thrown in for good measure. So many wonderful people who are passionately committed to a more sustainable food future for Oxford.
Supporting the Good Food Charter is a priority for some and an aspiration for others, but it was fantastic to hear from individuals able to translate this vision into reality. Growing high quality organic produce, increasing sales of fruit and veg, supplying local markets, redistributing surplus food, cooking for community groups and designing healthy menus are all examples of the brilliant work going on out there. Providing research to support these initiatives is also a vital contribution from our academic partners.
Barriers to driving the charter forward are inevitable, but the invaluable feedback from members has provided GFO with a clear mandate to address the most common challenges, and hopefully provide support where needed. Leaving on-going funding issues aside, the main barriers highlighted by the research included; recruitment of knowledgeable volunteer and paid staff; lack of social media and marketing knowledge; understanding local supply chains; educating consumers and the wider community about sustainable food; sourcing consistent, high quality produce; support from the city and county councils.
Collaboration was a watchword that came up in many of the conversations, so creating more and better opportunities for members to collaborate with each other is definitely on the agenda. We hope that by offering more targeted networking sessions we can get people talking, and help them to establish mutually beneficial relationships with more tangible outcomes. A key outcome would be to develop an online map that would enable retailers and caterers to identify suppliers, and better understand supply chain issues such as seasonality, quantity and logistics. A knock-on effect from this would allow producers to recognise gaps in supply and the potential for more diverse growing.
Last but not least would be for GFO to work towards achieving a Sustainable Food Cities award
for Oxford. We have already established a cross-sector food partnership but need to work on implementing an action plan on healthy and sustainable food. The development of the interactive map would definitely help towards reaching this goal. Watch this space!