Cardiff organisation works to make the food system more sustainable

As Cardiff aims to become the first Gold Sustainable Food Places in Wales, Food Cardiff is calling for more people to ‘Make A Pledge’ and take action.

Food Cardiff is calling for more people to take action to help the food scene be healthier, environmentally sustainable and local.

People of Cardiff are being invited to take part in a new campaign ‘Make A Pledge’ to help Cardiff become one of the most food sustainable places in the UK.

Food Cardiff, an organisation comprising of different individuals and organisations from Cardiff, is trying to get more people to grow crops, consume food and cook in ways that are healthy, protect nature and contribute to the local community economy.

“In the last couple of years, particularly with Covid people have started to think more about where food comes from. We’ve seen a massive increase in the number of people who want to use local suppliers and support their local community through food because they’ve seen the direct positive impact that that can have,” said Jane Cook from Food Cardiff, “I think people have really started to appreciate what was on their doorstep and pay a bit more attention to it and not immediately default to the supermarket.”

The farmers’ markets cut out the middleman, customers can directly talk and buy food from farmers.

Where people are shopping for food, which foods they choose to buy, how they cook, what they do with leftovers, Food Cardiff believes that changes in those small, operational actions can not only lead to a healthier lifestyle but also have a positive impact on Cardiff’s food system.

Shopping locally is one of the easiest ways to support the local food community. Every weekend, Cardiff farmers bring fresh, just-picked vegetables and fruits to Cardiff’s farmers’ markets to trade directly with consumers, and tell them how the food they’ve picked were grown.

Jane explained the benefits of farmer’s markets for customers, “[Farmers’ Markets] means that you can ask more questions about how the food has been produced, you can find out whether it was organic, [what are] these pesticides, what their practices are and you can meet the people who are actually growing your food so that you feel more connected to what you’re buying,” 

“Often farmers’ markets sell a lot of their products without any plastic and so it’s far more sustainable in that way as well. You can buy just what you need. You don’t have to buy a six-pack of apples in a plastic bag. You could buy one apple, two apples, however much you need for your cooking.”

In addition to farmers’ markets, community food retail projects also sell fruit and vegetables from local suppliers. They don’t have the complicated packaging as on supermarket shelves and can also help people save money. According to Food Cardiff, community food co-ops can help consumers save up to £220 a year compared to shopping in supermarkets.

There are a lot of growing food groups in Cardiff to help you get started.

Participating in community food events is one of the pledges within the ‘Make A Pledge’ campaign. People coming together to grow and share food can help those in a food crisis, as well as create an opportunity for neighbours to talk.

Growing vegetables at home or in the community can also have a positive impact on food sustainability and is an interesting way for physical exercise.

“When you can see something go from a seed to something that you can take into your kitchen, chop off and have for dinner, it feels really good. It also reminds you of the effort and the time that goes into creating food, which often was quite removed from these days when we can just go into a shop and pick it off the shelf, ” said Jane.

She also mentioned the environmental benefits of growing food at home, “Growing food is really good for like soils and soil health. So if we were all growing more food in our gardens, instead of maybe just putting down paving stones, that’s a lot better for biodiversity, for insects for birds to have.”

Shortening the food supply chain means more fresh food and less air pollution caused by transport.

‘Make A Pledge’ is not only about making a difference to consumers, but Food Cardiff is also trying to get more food suppliers and farmers to make changes in the way they farm, transport and source food.

Jane said:“The shorter the food supply chain is where you’re taking away carbon footprint in terms of food miles. So if you’re not transporting food, hundreds of miles by road or you’re not transporting it by air or you’re not shipping it over by Europe, then those that carbon footprint is going to be lower.”

“[It] also means If I’m sourcing food that has been grown in Cardiff, or in South Wales, then I know that the money I’m spending is staying in Cardiff and South Wales, so it strengthens our local economy. It builds a stronger community.”

Growing salad leaves in Cardiff’s city centre garden, then picked, packed and delivered to local restaurants and customers in a few hours, Cardiff’s Salad Garden is an example of shortening the food supply chain. This way can also reduce air pollution caused by long-distance transport.

Cardiff was awarded Silver Sustainable Food Places last year, making it the first place in Wales to reach this award.