Liberal Democrats in Gateshead are calling on Gateshead Council to put into action a plan to increase local food production to help protect the environment and boost the health of residents.
Policies for increasing the amount of food produced locally include doubling the number of allotments in the borough by 2025, reviewing all land in the borough with the aim of creating more community gardens, orchards and woodland and ensuring every school has an allotment to educate young people in the importance of healthy food and how it is produced.
Lib Dem Leader of the Opposition in Gateshead, Cllr Jonathan Wallace, gave up paid employment a decade ago to “live the good life” by growing his own food. He is calling on the council to kickstart a local food revolution.
“There is a huge demand for allotments because people want to be able to produce at least some of their own food,” said Jonathan. “But allotments are in short supply and over the past decades, there are fewer and fewer around.
“So we want Gateshead to carry out a review of land to identify possible sites for new allotments and community gardens. The Council could also help join up people with spare garden space with those with little or no garden.
“We also want to see more community cafes opened, supplying meals using food grown in the borough. Allotment societies using council services could ‘pay’ for them by donating produce which could then be used in community cafes or in food banks. 75 years ago many councils did this and we need a 21st century version.
“Shipping food over huge distances, often from the other side of the world, uses up large amounts of fuel for transport and resources for packaging. In Gateshead we could tackle that head on.
“The Council could be a catalyst that brings together people and food producers. For the sake of the environment and for the health of residents of the borough, Gateshead needs to pursue a radical set of proposals to ensure much more food is grown in Gateshead.”
The Liberal Democrats ideas for boosting local food production include:
- a review of all land in the borough by Gateshead Council (whether owned by the council or not) to identify areas for additional allotments, community gardens, woodland, orchards and community farms;
- doubling the number of allotments in Gateshead by 2025;
- creating an annual “Grown in Gateshead” festival to boost food tourism and promote healthy, locally produced food;
- ensure every school has an allotment so that children can be taught gardening skills and increase their interest in growing food;
- Council to assist in establishing regular town food fairs in which local food producers and allotment societies can sell their surplus produce in the centres of the smaller towns in the borough;
- setting up an army of food volunteers to go into schools and communities to spread the message about growing local food and to pass on skills;
- creating annual local food awards to be presented to Gateshead based allotment societies, cafes, farms and manufacturers.
- creating a certificate for businesses which sell local produce which can be displayed to customers;
- working with GPs to prescribe gardening activities to tackle both mental and physical health where appropriate;
- supporting the establishment of more community cafes to ensure wholesome, healthy and sustainable meals are available at affordable prices in low income communities using food surpluses produced on local gardens, allotments and community farms;
- where appropriate, allowing allotment societies and community farms to pay for council services with surplus food which can then be passed on by the Council to community cafes;
- hosting an annual conference to bring together and share experience of those involved in local food production;
- setting up a register of people with surplus garden space or unused land which could be cultivated by others in the community. The aim would be to link up those with spare space with those who need or want space to grown fruit and vegetables;
- ensuring any replacement hedges on council property consist of fruit bearing shrubs and trees.
- establishing poultry clubs in which poultry keepers can share their knowledge but also supply hatchlings and point of lay birds for those wanting to keep chickens. The model can also be used for other domesticated animals, for example goat clubs could be set up in which people can share billies, nannies, equipment, skills and milking goats.