A plan to make food in Herefordshire healthier and more sustainable while also benefiting the local economy has been given official backing.

The Health and Wellbeing Board, which oversees health and social services in the county, unanimously supported a food charter being developed by Herefordshire Food Alliance.

This brings together local bodies as diverse as farmers, businesses, church groups, housing and conservation bodies and food banks to put the nationwide Sustainable Food Places model into practice locally.

Its coordinator Pete Norton said the charter would be out early in the new year, but would need buy-in from the alliance’s diverse members.

“It’s a huge logistical operation getting everyone on board so things start to change,” he said.

“This recognition from the board gives it credibility.”

As an example of the charter’s likely impact, he said: “It will aim to shift policy on the food in places like schools, hospitals and care homes, providing more opportunities for local food producers to sell locally, and shortening the supply chain.”

He pointed to Hereford County Hospital, “built without a kitchen” at the start of this century and reliant on “cook-chill” prepared meals delivered from south Wales. “How else could that contract be met?”


Tourism also has a role in encouraging visitors to sample local produce, he said, describing Visit Herefordshire’s Cider Circuits around the county as “a great example of this”.

Currently most food spend goes out of county to large food retailers, which the alliance also aims to address by building up local markets and box schemes, and to bring together producers and customers, he said.

This has already led to Herefordshire produce being sold in the Gloucester motorway service station farm shop.

Meanwhile, addressing the environmental impact of food will mean looking at food waste and food surplus.

“We already have a great local example in Zero-Waste Stall in Ross-on-Wye,” Mr Norton said. “We would like to see this all over the county.”

This collects surplus food from supermarkets and other sources and gives them out for free – addressing food poverty as well as sustainability.

“Our food banks are very good at dealing with what is an ongoing and growing problem, even in places where you wouldn’t expect it,” he said. “But if you link it to an environmental issue, and make it open to everyone, there is less stigma.”

Cabinet member for children’s and family services Coun Diana Toynbee said on this: “Making food cheaper isn't necessarily the answer – it doesn't mean we’re going to get healthier food or support our local food producers.”

Mr Norton replied: “Household food insecurity is a better way of describing it, because it certainly isn't about making food cheaper.”

Welcoming the plan, council leader David Hitchiner said: “There is a huge opportunity for Herefordshire to gain from marketing healthy food and processing it within the county.”