What are the Challenge Guidelines?
The Challenge is to try to consume only food and drink grown, raised, caught, produced and/or processed within a 30-mile radius of wherever you live throughout September 2013. The 30 miles is ‘as the crow flies’ i.e. if you live in Ipswich its within a circle of 30 mile radius from Ipswich Cornhill. You can see from the map below that’s a pretty big area: in fact it gives you nearly 3,000 square miles to choose from!
Maps for other towns in Suffolk are on the Local Groups part of the website. Or you can make your own circle using this web-link.
We had a great challenge in 2012, when we started mapping local food producers and retailers within this radius. We want you to join in with us in 2013 and find out all about the exciting food available locally, which we’ll continue mapping up until September and beyond to help you find sources of local food. Let’s support local producers and eat more of what’s grown right here in Suffolk!
If you’re with us – sign up to pledge your support, using the sign-up button on the right. Once you’ve signed up we’ll send you email updates about the challenge, including the events we’re organising and promoting between now and the end of September.
Interested in joining in? Want to find out more? Challenge guidelines and more information are in the FAQs below.
What, ALL food and drink – no exceptions?
We don’t want to make it unbearable: both East Anglia and the UK have imported food and drink for many years and will continue to do so. Water, salt, pepper and spices are allowed. In addition everyone can choose 3 ‘wildcard’ items that come from outside the 30-miles that they can’t live without. Favourites are likely to be tea, coffee, bananas, chocolate, oats and butter.
What, every meal, every day throughout September?
We hope as many people as possible commit to the full 30:30 (30-Miles for 30-Days) Challenge but we realise that others may find this too daunting and would prefer to aim for a week, a day, or just a single meal. That’s fine. Set yourself a Challenge that you think you can manage – but one which stretches you at least a little so you go and find some food and drink you haven’t had before, or eat more local food than you would normally.
But how do I know if stuff is local?
This is where you have to ask the questions, and look at the small print. We are not setting out hard and fast rules. One of the most important reasons for taking part in the Challenge is to find out what is and isn’t grown or available locally and discover how hard, or easy, it is to get hold of it.
Some things are easy to work out, such as eggs bought direct from the owner of the chickens or fruit direct from the grower, or vegetables grown by yourself, a friend or a neighbour, or foraged from the wild.
Other stuff is definitely ‘not local’ such as coffee (even if it is ground locally), bananas, chocolate (no cocoa trees in East Anglia!) and rice.
But there is a whole bunch of stuff in-between and a lot of grey areas so here are some guidelines:
Farm Shops & Farmer’s Markets – don’t assume that all their produce is local, or that it is all from their own farm. If it doesn’t say where it comes from, ask. And at the same time why not tell the shop staff that you are looking for food and drink from within 30 miles for your Local Food Challenge? It could be the start of an interesting conversation, and you may be shown quite a few things you didn’t realise were local. If they think there is a demand it might even encourage the shop owner to stock more local products.
Supermarket produce – Most supermarkets stock a small amount of ‘local produce’ (the Co-op is the best for this and make a big feature of their Sourced Locally products). But try and find out where exactly it comes from. E.g. supermarket Suffolk/Essex-grown vegetables are likely to have been washed and packaged out of the county and returned here. Norfolk eggs count as local in some Suffolk supermarkets (and possibly vice-versa!).
Markets: If it’s not clear, ask the question. In the Ipswich market Kent-grown apples have been seen labelled as ‘local’. That’s fine if you want a UK apple, but not if you are trying to buy some to fit in to the Challenge guidelines.
What about processed foods and drinks that contain a number of products?
This is where it gets tricky and you’ll have to look at the ingredients, ask the questions and use your judgment. Ideally every single ingredient should be local for the food or drink to qualify, such as cheese made from local milk or cider from locally grown apples. But we have to be realistic, and in some cases you just won’t know. To qualify ‘local jam’ should be made from fruit grown locally (there is lots of it), even if the sugar is imported, and ‘local beer’ made using locally grown hops and barley. So if you are not sure, ask the questions and decide for yourself. No one is going to disqualify you for eating or drinking ‘non-local’ produce.
We would say it is better to buy something that is ‘mainly local’ than something that is entirely, or almost entirely, imported. One objective of the Challenge is to shift people’s buying habits to become more local, and thus grow the local market and keep money in the local economy.
What about ‘Locally Made’ products?
There are quite a few of these, such as tomato sauces made from Italian tomatoes, cakes and pies, ‘locally smoked’ salmon, nut and seed mixes. Again, read the small-print and ask the questions. One important aspect of the Challenge is supporting local businesses, so you may be happy to buy a ‘non local’ product from a local producer. But if you can, why not tell them that you would rather buy local products made from local ingredients, where possible.
What if I’m up for it but the rest of my family aren’t?
The whole idea is that it should be fun, and pleasurable. Why not plan and cook a ‘local dinner’ for them as a treat, using the recipe ideas on our website and the local retailers and producers we have found? It could be a great way of discovering how much delicious local food there – and give you plenty to talk about at the meal.
How much will I have to change my shopping habits, or diet?
Well, it depends on what they are at the moment. If you are a ‘super-locavore’ already, and are lucky enough to grow a lot of your own stuff or live close to good local food shops, probably not much. But you probably wouldn’t be reading these guidelines or considering doing the Challenge if you weren’t interested in switching your buying or eating habits, even just a little. How much you change is up to you. We are just trying to make it as easy as possible for you by providing you with the information and encouragement.
Will it be more expensive?
Again, that is up to you, and how much you spend at the moment and what you eat. Eating seasonally and buying locally can be much cheaper than supermarket prices such as eggs, vegetables and fruit bought direct from a local producer. Look out for ‘doorstep’ or farm gate sales. Even in towns you may be surprised how many local bargains there are, especially in September when there are often gluts of fresh produce. Some local products, such as honey or meat, may be (but not necessarily) more expensive than what you might buy elsewhere. But buying directly from the producer allows him or her to sell at a price that does not include a cut for the wholesaler or packaging or transportation, and so you can both benefit.
Rather than eating meat every day, why not treat yourself to one or two top-quality local products a week and go meat-free on other days? Or buy a big joint and make it last several days. You don’t need much for a stir-fry or salad later in the week if you serve it with plenty of local vegetables. Perhaps you could buy in bulk, e.g. a bag of onions or a big container of oil (which is often cheaper) and share it out between your friends.
But cost isn’t everything. The quality and welfare of the animals or vegetables may well be far higher, the product may contain less additives and preservatives and it may contain less added water. It may have been allowed to grow slower than in large scale commercial enterprises, and so shrink less when it cooks. The flavour of well cared for and well hung meat is much better than from ‘factory scale’ farms, and you need less to make a delicious dish, especially if you bulk up the meal with well-priced local seasonal vegetables and fruit – which will often be fresher and have a far better flavour than ‘long-life’, packaged and standardized supermarket produce which could have been flown in from the other side of the world.
But won’t shopping for local food take much longer than just going to the supermarket?
It will probably take a bit longer, especially if supermarkets are the only place you shop at the moment, but it needn’t take much longer if you look out for local outlets that are nearby, or on the way to places you are going such as work or school. And you will probably find that local shopping is much more enjoyable and relaxed – meeting the people producing or selling the food and having a conversation with them about where things have come from or how they were made. One reason why supermarkets have been so successful and popular (the account for over 90% of all food sales in the UK) is that one-stop shopping is very convenient, but few people would rate it as enjoyable. Shopping is far more fun if you know the person you are buying from – and connects you with your local community.
If everyone bought one extra ‘local food item’ from a local shop or producer once a week, the local food market would multiply many times over. Even a small shift in our individual buying habits, especially if sustained, would make a major difference to the local food economy, encourage it to grow, and make us less dependent on the major supermarkets and the international food supply systems.
However many people will continue to buy some of their food from a supermarket, some of which won’t be local, such as your wildcard items. Supermarkets are quick and convenient, but you don’t have to think very hard about most of the stuff you buy every week. Most of the ‘fun’ or ‘individuality’ of going to a supermarket is choosing the fresh products, as well as looking out for bargains, and the local or British products available. Supermarkets can still be part of the challenge, especially if used wisely.
In allowing you to save time, for example by ordering on-line and getting a home delivery for all the non-perishables, you can use your ‘shopping time’ to go to local stores for fresh or local produce. By using our local-shopping maps (see Local Producers and Local Retailers pages of the website) you may well find that several are close to home, on your route to work or school, (or the supermarket) and are easy to stop by when you are making another journey.
But I don’t have the time to cook everything from scratch.
Salad and an omelette with a slice of local bread, or a pasta sauce made from local vegetables can take a matter of minutes to rustle up. By batch cooking things like soups and sauces, or a large pie or casserole and using them for a couple of meals during the week you can half your time. Eating local doesn’t have to mean lots of cooking. There are a number of local businesses offering good quality local ready meals listed on the web-pages.
Fresh food which has not travelled a long way or been preserved often has more nutrients and is likely to have less salt and saturated fat than many processed foods. Eating locally can be good for your health – and waistline!
Alternatively why not offer to cook your friends or neighbours a local meal one night, if they will invite you round another night when they will do the cooking? Two opportunities to have a fun evening! Or arrange a dinner when everyone cooks or brings a dish or course – a local feast!
I don’t have the time or space to grow my own food.
Not everybody has a garden, or one big enough or suitable to grow edible stuff, or much spare time. But herbs and salad leaves can be grown on a windowsill, tomatoes and strawberries work well in hanging baskets and container gardening might be a good solution if you’re short on space. Local allotments, and community gardens and orchards are a great place to pick fellow gardeners’ brains about what might work for you. If you live in or near Ipswich and want to get a bit more stuck in, why not come and lend a hand at the People’s Community Garden at the Maidenhall Allotments, where the work and the produce is shared.
Help, I’ve never grown food before!
Ask around, you are sure to find someone, probably closer to you than you think, to give you help and advice.
I’m vegetarian – or vegan.
For vegetarians there is lots of local veg and fruit, eggs, local cheese and dairy products available – see the maps on our website. Vegans may have to use their wildcards to really focus on protein – it will certainly be a challenge but a very rewarding one if you can do it.
Local sources of protein from grains and pulses are always going to be more difficult to find; most of our soya, beans and wholegrains like quinoa and bulgar wheat are not grown in the UK.
One new company selling Great British dried peas and beans is Hodmedods based near Diss – see the website for more details. Some of their products come from within 30 miles of parts of Suffolk (bordering on Cambridgshire & Essex) but others come from Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Kent. So a very good alternative to imported, and their packs come with recipe ideas. They hope to have some dried white runner beans in late September/October, from a trial they are doing with an organic grower near Diss and also hope to have British-grow quinoa from Essex available around October.
Some local food co-ops, such as the Ipswich Ripple Food Co-op, sell dried local field beans very cheaply and some Hodmedods products. Their website has details of the trading sessions and to find out what they stock you can e-mail them on firstname.lastname@example.org
Note to readers: these guidelines are a work in progress; we are constantly thinking about how to make the challenge accessible to people and are open to comments and suggestions. If you feel strongly about anything we’ve said here, get in touch, we’d be very interested to hear you thoughts on the Challenge.