Funding boost for Scottish local food network

Europe’s largest local food network is to receive almost half a million pounds of funding from the Scottish government to encourage more people to choose local and sustainably sourced food

The Fife Diet, which has 3,000 active members, will use the £448,000 grant from the Climate Challenge Fund to measure their reduction in carbon emissions and launch an urban agriculture and forest gardening project in the region’s largest town of Kirkcaldy.

The network also aims to double its membership over three years, with people pledging to cut their carbon footprint in six ways: eating more locally and more organically, composting more and wasting less, cutting down on meat consumption and attempting to grow their own food.

Mike Small, project co-ordinator, said the funding gives the network time to plan for the long term: “It allows us three years to develop the project. Within that time we will be able to create growing spaces, which need time to be cultivated over the seasons, and also to collaborate with other projects.

The scheme will be publishing monthly carbon impact reports to give people a sense of collective action. “Rather than just have people join the diet for its feelgood factor, we want to get back to our core value; that this is about climate change,” said Mike.

Small explains that when people are asked at local Fife Diet meetings which five food items they couldn’t do without, they mainly compile the same list: coffee or tea, bananas, sugar, wine and chocolate. “People don’t list a long range of exotic fruits they can’t have, so we say have all that and also the staples you can’t get here, like rice.” With this in mind, the ‘dieters’ are allowed an 80:20 split, where ideally, four-fifths of their food is derived locally while the rest can be ‘imported’.

Any notion of the diet being some kind of puritanical back-to-nature movement can be dispelled by looking through the seasonal recipe books given to new members. Rather than subsisting on root vegetables and boiled beef, this spring’s edition offers taramasalata made with hard cooked roes from Iain Spink’s Arbroath Smokies stall at the Farmer’s Market, aioli with steamed asparagus, or wild garlic pesto made with Anster cheese.

A study into members’ eating habits found that on average they were eating seven portions of fruit and vegetables every day, higher than the recommended amount and four times more than the average Scot eats daily. Mike also notes a saving of around £20 a week on his own family’s food budget since his switch to eating local food.

Businesses are joining the project regularly to extend the range of foodstuffs on offer, including a farm near Cupar that grows its own chillies, and a microbrewery in the town of St Andrews, which opened this year.

Other funding sees the development of the Seed Truck, which will run workshops across Scotland on themes including: building a raised bed, wild food walks, advanced composting skills and establishing wormeries. The truck will also be packed with historic varieties of plants and trees, high quality seed stock and equipment for demonstrating local eating and cooking. The vehicle and staff posts involved have been funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund with a grant of £93,000.