Megan Saunders is convinced that Portsmouth can become a happier, healthier, more prosperous and more successful city by concentrating on food.
Megan, the local representative for the EU-funded Local Food Project, is on a mission to, among other things, encourage food businesses to flourish, support community growing projects and promote ethical and sustainable growing techniques – all of which will, she says, improve people’s general wellbeing.
One of the aims is to see Portsmouth named Sustainable Food City. If successful, Portsmouth will join Bristol, London and Plymouth in promoting local, sustainable food and produce.
To do this, Megan has joined forces with groups such as Southsea Greenhouse to get the ball rolling for the initiative.
She says: ‘My project is trying to help Portsmouth become part of the Sustainable Food Cities Network.
‘It is a great project and gets the public working with private and third-sector organisations who believe in the power of food as a vehicle for driving change.
‘The different groups are dedicated to promoting sustainable food for the benefit of people and the planet.
‘This is what my project is about.
‘We have had the launch event along with a series of meetings so we can identify and address the key areas of improvement around food for the city.
‘Working with Southsea Greenhouse is fantastic because they are all about local produce and local people.
‘The garden is for the community and people are coming to grow their own vegetables and fruit and that is what we want.
‘We want businesses and people in the city to become sustainable and, where possible, use ingredients that were grown or made here in the city.’
Megan has been trying hard to get businesses on board who already do this and she has had interest from Portsmouth-based Yarty.
Cordial experts, David and Jayne Mugridge, along with their daughter Amelia, have recently moved to Portsmouth and run their business out of the family home.
The fruit that goes into their cordial is all grown on a farm in Titchfield and their ingredients are all natural products, with no sweeteners or additives.
David, from North End, says: ‘It is important for us to use fruit from nearby locations.
‘Our customers expect the highest quality and they can really taste the difference when the fruit has been picked that very morning. It’s great what Megan is trying to do because it really promotes small businesses in Portsmouth.
‘We need to become more sustainable as a city and this is the right step forward.
‘Even when we were in Devon, we worked with local farmers so this is something we have always aimed to do and I think it would be good if other businesses were inspired by Megan’s project to do the same.’
But this is only the beginning for Megan and her project.
If successful, she will give residents in Portsmouth access to local, affordable and sustainable food within 500 metres of their homes.
She adds: ‘This is going to take time and effort on my part but I am hoping things will really get going.
‘I have got fantastic support behind me and we are all working hard to promote our message and reach as many people as possible.
‘But we need more people to get involved – more businesses and more residents.’
Megan’s aims are part of a larger three-year programme organised by Soil Association, Sustain and Food Matters.
Under the Sustainable Food Cities Network, the project aims to get 100 urban areas to join them.
Speaking about the project, Tom Andrews, Soil Association programme manager of Sustainable Food Cities says: ‘The Sustainable Food Cities programme is about using food to improve people’s health and wellbeing, creating new businesses and jobs and reducing our impact on the environment.
‘Food is not only at the heart of some of today’s greatest challenges but is also a vital part of the solution.
‘The Sustainable Food Cities network will create cities where every school, hospital, restaurant and workplace canteen serve only healthy and sustainable meals.
‘Where everyone has access to affordable fresh, seasonal, local and sustainably produced food no matter where they live; and where people of all ages and backgrounds have opportunities to learn about, grow and cook food.
‘It is about creating cities where good food is visible and celebrated in every corner and where people’s right to eat healthy and sustainable food is embedded into every relevant policy and strategy.’
Megan also wants to set up the Portsmouth Food Awards that would celebrate restaurants, coffee shops, food stores and butchers that all use local produce.
The community would vote for their favourite independent business.
Megan says: ‘The Portsmouth Food Awards is a really exciting prospect that we are hoping to start next year.
‘We hope it will raise awareness for independent, locally-owned stores and engages consumers with the business.
‘Something similar has been done already in Plymouth and I think it would be a great way to help the people of Portsmouth become more aware of what is produced in our local area and where we can go to access it.’
To get involved call Megan on (023) 9288 2854.
THERE are seven key factors to Megan’s project that will help Portsmouth become a sustainable city.
· Sustainable Supply Chains - creating more ethical and sustainable production techniques that will reduce the amount of greenhouse gases and the number of pesticides used.
· Community Food Projects - supporting communities to develop their own vision of a healthy and sustainable future.
· Food Knowledge and Skills - giving everyone the chance to learn about good food and develop skills that enable them to feed themselves.
· Public Sector Food - providing staff with healthy and sustainable meals made from local produce.
· Food Enterprises - encouraging new food business to flourish and provide new job opportunities.
· Food Poverty and Access - tackling food poverty and giving everyone access to affordable food.
· Healthy and Sustainable Diets - helping cities access the latest research on healthy diets and how best to promote this.
TO SHOW appreciation for the local businesses that strive to use local produce, Megan wants to set up the Portsmouth Food Awards.
Looking for inspiration from the Plymouth Food Awards, the occasion will celebrate different kinds of food stores and give them the recognition they deserve.
Megan says: ‘This is something that is very much only a concept at this time.
‘We are doing bits here and there but it will take a lot of planning and promoting.
‘I do hope we can hold our first one next year though during the summer.
‘I have been thinking about the different categories and they would be things like best independent pub and best independent cafe or coffee shop.
‘But we will also have things like best butcher, best independent food store and the community food award which will look at community groups that contribute to good food.
‘I thought it would be a great way for the public to get to know the best local places in the city.’