By Prof. Michael Winter
Sustain has issued a survey report exploring how good food enterprises have adapted to the pandemic one year on.
Good Food Enterprises: Adapting to the pandemic, one year on was published on the 16th June.
Sustain define ‘good food enterprises’ as ‘those that use farmer focussed supply chains, prioritise healthy and sustainable food, and increase access to, and the affordability of, good food. Good food enterprises may be non-profit, social enterprises or for profit food retailers and play a part in their community beyond trading.’
This report is based on a survey of good food enterprises in the Sustain network and the results are derived from 91 responses in March and April 2021, and covers a range of enterprises including producers, suppliers, bakeries, retail, hospitality and community assets.
The key findings are worth repeating in full:
Good food enterprises adapted and diversified to respond to the pandemic; most commonly by creating a delivery service (52%), online ordering (41%), and providing new or different products or services (35%).
63% plan to continue with their adaptations longer term, showing that these changes appear to have benefited their business model.
Almost two thirds reported an increase in customer numbers and just under half increased their revenue, indicating an increase in the use of local, good food enterprises during the pandemic.
There has been more collaboration between local food enterprises and other businesses locally, with 60% reporting increased collaboration between enterprises, organisations and others within their local food networks in the past year and 30% accessing new supply chains.
42% had supported the emergency food response, showing how good food enterprises can contribute to community resilience.
Over half had not accessed local or national government support, including financial support, business advice or access to council resources.
Much of the rest of the report is devoted to some case study examples, mainly quotations from respondents, and conclusions and recommendations primarily about encouraging the good food sector aimed first at local authorities and local enterprise partnerships:
Recognise the opportunity to build local community wealth and revitalise high streets through supporting good food enterprises to fully reopen and grow as we emerge out of lockdowns.
Ensure funding is more flexible to support different needs. A ‘one size fits all’ approach means many good food enterprises will fall through the gaps.
Prioritise the creation of good food jobs as we build back better, supporting community focussed, sustainable and ethical enterprises which are better for people and the planet.
Actively support existing, or the development of, local food partnerships and ensure members of these partnerships are involved in the development of local economic plans and other strategies and plans, as well as local Growth Hubs, to bring in sustainable food expertise.
And secondly directed to national government:
Prioritise investment in small, local food enterprises and initiatives. As part of the green recovery strategies as well as economic recovery/build back better funding including via the incoming Shared Prosperity Fund to ensure there is infrastructure, business support and resources for the creation of new, and support of existing, good food enterprises.
Review national planning policies to make it easier for small and medium enterprises to afford and access spaces and land, including making Community Asset Transfer more accessible.
Commission research to better understand the environmental benefits of small-scale, good food enterprises to help these businesses be recognised for their benefit to tackling the climate and nature emergency.
This list makes for familiar reading for those who follow Sustain and its key members but is none the worse for that. In such a busy and congested market place as food advocacy there is an understandable need constantly to reiterate messages.