Mayor has appetite for local food

London mayor Ken Livingstone has pledged to support local food producers in a bid to improve the diets of millions of people in the city.

Developing stronger links between regional producers and the London market would provide multiple benefits, he told delegates at the Soil Association conference in London on 6 January.

Called Feeding our cities in the 21st century, speakers at the association’s 60th anniversary conference were asked to focus on ways of providing food for the world’s increasingly urban population and reconnecting cities with the countryside.

Forging stronger links between UK farms and the London market would reduce food miles, boost the local economy and increase people’s health, Mr Livingstone said.

The plan is contained in a London Food Strategy, due to be published this spring.

Recommendations included in the document will be implemented as part of the government’s wider Sustainable Food and Farming Strategy.

During a keynote speech to delegates, Mr Livingstone said: “It will be the most radical approach to improving London’s diet and health since the establishment of the post-war welfare state.”

One of the strategy’s main aims is to develop a regional food system.

Mr Livingstone said this would recognise the ability of producers in and around London to access the food market, reducing environmental damage and providing greater food security.

Reducing the distance food is transported to consumers would make good food more easily accessible, while encouraging higher production standards.

It would also make the food supply chain more transparent, increasing food safety.

Mr Livingstone is keen to develop London’s food processing sector, one of the few manufacturing sub-sectors in the city that is growing. One in four London businesses sell food, while the food and drink sector provides the city with 31,000 jobs.

“London is never going to be self sufficient in food, but by encouraging a greater supply of local, regional and organic food, and a diversity of outlets, from markets to local shops, we also safeguard our food supply in the event of a crisis.”