Making local food sustainable in Manchester

Levidow, Les and Psarikidou, Katerina (2012). Making local food sustainable in Manchester. In: Viljoen, Andre and Wiskerke, Johannes S. C. eds. Sustainable Food Planning: Evolving Theory and Practice. Wageningen: Wageningen Academic Publishers, pp. 207–220.



In Manchester, environmental and health issues have been integrated into a wider agro-food strategy for making the city ‘more sustainable’, in several senses of the word. With crucial support from state bodies and charities, several initiatives expand access to fresh, healthy food, especially in ‘food deserts’. Through ‘community engagement’, they mobilize various resources, skills and voluntary labour to create ‘community spaces’ for social inclusion. Manchester agro-food networks shorten supply chains, e.g. by more directly linking peri-urban agriculture with urban consumers, and by promoting urban agriculture based on local resource mobilisation and personal trust. These networks provide alternatives to conventional agro-food chains.

In Manchester, food relocalisation helps to overcome socio-economic inequalities and health problems. In a national policy context advocating food relocalisation but offering little support, Manchester agro-food initiatives cooperate to develop environmentally sustainable, socially just, healthy communities. These also reconstruct local identities and social commitments. Despite that success, the larger food system is still dominated by conventional agro-food chains. Community food initiatives have a marginal role, so practitioners discuss how to overcome the present limitations. From 2010 onwards the UK government’s austerity regime undermines state support, so community engagement will become even more important for mobilising resources.

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