Herefordshire Council's public health team has outshone competitors from Birmingham, Dudley, Shropshire, and Worcestershire to bag the 'Local Authority Project of the Year Award' at the prestigious West Midlands Public Health Awards. The award honours the team's innovative and far-reaching work on promoting sustainable food practices within the region, a project that resonates with the growing global need for environmentally-conscious action.
The project tackled the unique challenges and opportunities faced by Herefordshire, a sparsely populated rural county. Despite the difficulties in accessing food compared to urban areas, the team saw potential in leveraging the county's abundant agricultural resources. Recognising that Herefordshire’s food has to travel more miles before reaching retailers — often leading to a so-called 'rural premium' — the council worked to mitigate these costs and enhance food sustainability.
In collaboration with the Herefordshire Food Alliance, the council's award-winning team focused on six key system areas, including the promotion of local food consumption. The initiative not only aimed to reduce food miles but also supported the county’s rich agricultural sector, which constitutes 24% of local businesses.
The sustainable food project adopted a comprehensive three-pronged approach: fostering partnerships in related industries, funding a coordinator's role to manage the new strategy, and bolstering local activities to promote a sustainable food system. The judges lauded this multifaceted strategy, recognising the team's commitment to addressing food challenges in a holistic manner.
Project leader, Kristan Pritchard, expressed delight at the recognition, noting the considerable challenges around food sustainability. He emphasised the potential benefits of sustainable habits, like purchasing from farmers' markets, meal planning, growing personal produce, and buying 'wonky' vegetables and in-season goods. Such practices, Pritchard argued, can foster local economies, reduce food waste, benefit the environment, and promote health.
For those interested in becoming part of this sustainable movement, the team encourages signing the local charter at herefordshirefoodcharter.org.uk. This victory is not just an accolade for Herefordshire Council but a testament to the potential within every community to contribute positively towards sustainable living.