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15 April 2024

New Scheme Aims to Make Local, Organic Produce More Accessible and Affordable

A new pilot programme has launched in Cardiff which aims to make healthy, planet-friendly food accessible and affordable for everyone – especially those facing low incomes and health inequalities.

Food that is good for both health and the planet often comes at a higher cost than less healthy and/or planet-friendly alternatives. Bridging the Gap is an initiative established to tackle this.

Through Bridging the Gap, pilots have been launched across the UK to explore ways to make sustainable healthy food – especially sustainably-produced organic fruits and vegetables – more accessible to people on lower incomes.

The Cardiff pilot programme is ‘The Planet Card' – a collaboration between Cardiff Farmers Markets, Food Cardiff, and a group of organic growers, social enterprises and community organisations.

Final plans for the development of the card were co-produced at a community workshop in Canton last month, which brought together representatives from across the city who would be interested in trialling the scheme.

‘The Planet Card' will be a card with a value of up to £11 per week – enabling holders to switch their normal weekly shop for fruit and vegetables to organically produced versions, without being left out of pocket. Shoppers will be able to use the card at a choice of organic fruit and vegetable stalls at any of the Cardiff Farmers Markets across the city, found weekly in Rhiwbina, Roath and Riverside.

Cardiff Farmers Market is leading the pilot with an initial group of 20 shoppers. Once that trial has been evaluated, a second phase with 120 shoppers will run later this summer.

The evidence from both phases will be used to support proposals for changes to food policy at a local and national level.

Carol Adams, enterprise manager at Cardiff Farmers Market, said:

“The workshop was a valuable opportunity for our community, farmers, and market managers to come together and co-create a solution that benefits everyone involved.

“People told us that they want to shop organically, but have historically hit barriers around affordability and availability. We’ve also heard that people can sometimes perceive organic food and shopping at farmers markets as too expensive and therefore not something they feel they can access.

“It’s been great to address some of those misconceptions and help to educate people around the benefits of being able to buy direct from growers. Not just in terms of price – it’s not always more expensive than the supermarket – but also in terms of being able to buy just what you need, access advice from producers on how to cook and store fresh fruit and veg, and how to make the most of it.”

One of the growers supporting the scheme is grower Pawel Wisniewski, who runs Paul’s Organic Veg based in Monmouthshire.

He added:

“As an organic farmer, I'm passionate about providing the best possible food for people. Food is the foundation of our health, and good food choices now can lead to a healthier future. This project is particularly exciting because it allows me to share this passion and connect with new customers, helping them to make healthier choices and access high-quality food.”

Bridging the Gap is a partnership between Sustain, Growing Communities, Food Sense Wales, the Alexandra Rose Charity, and Nourish NI.

The Cardiff pilot scheme has been coordinated through the Food Cardiff network which connects people and projects working to promote healthy, environmentally sustainable and ethical food across the city. The concept for the Planet Card emerged from two Big Ideas community workshops organised by Food Cardiff.

Food Cardiff coordinator Pearl Costello added:

“Food Cardiff is proud to support our partners, including Cardiff Farmers' Market, in developing this innovative scheme. It perfectly aligns with Food Cardiff’s mission to put good food at the heart of strong, healthy, resilient communities. The Planet Card is also a great step towards Cardiff achieving its Gold Sustainable Food Place status, showing the strength of the good food movement in the city and making climate-friendly food options more accessible and affordable.”

People interested in taking part in the second phase of the project this summer can contact Carol Adams at carol@cardifffarmersmarkets.org.uk

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