Oxford MailCharter serves up food for thought (From Oxford Mail)

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Charter serves up food for thought

Oxford Mail: CHAMPIONING CAUSE: Doireann Lalor and Richard Howlett from Cultivate Oxford Buy this photo CHAMPIONING CAUSE: Doireann Lalor and Richard Howlett from Cultivate Oxford

A GROUP is hoping to make food tastier in Oxford after the launch of a new charter, but it cannot enforce change.

City councillor John Tanner has signed an opt-in constitution called the Good Food Oxford Charter.

Good Food Oxford, which formed at the end of last year, wants all supermarkets, offices, restaurants and corner shops to sign up to provide better food. That means healthier, tastier, locally-sourced food where possible, with a lower carbon footprint.

Signatories – of which there are 30 so far – promise to “ensure all people have access to affordable, healthy and tasty food, regardless of income”, although there is no obligation to do so.

Members of the voluntary scheme, including the city council, also pledge to “encourage a diversity of local, independent shops”.

The city council admitted the charter had not prompted it to make any changes to its catering or operations.

Mr Tanner, board member for Cleaner, Greener Oxford on Oxford City Council, said: “Food is not equally distributed in Oxford. You can go to a supermarket and see food from all around the world and not everyone can afford that.

“The city council also wants to shrink Oxford’s carbon footprint and reduce the amount of CO2 the city produces which causes climate change. A lot of our food comes long distances and there is a carbon cost to that.

“If more people ask for locally-grown food, shops will respond.”

Although Mr Tanner said the city council was not making any changes directly to adhere to the charter, he said: “We are starting the discussion with this charter.”

The city council is aiming to cut Oxford’s carbon emissions by 80 per cent before 2050.

Other signatories to the charter include Oxford Food Bank, East Oxford Farmers’ Market and Oxfork restaurant on Magdalen Road.

Good Food Oxford co-ordinator Hannah Jacobs, 23, said: “Our food system is at the heart of so many massive problems, from health to climate change and poverty.

“Not only is the current food system emitting a third of CO2 in this country, it’s also behind huge social imbalances like obesity.

“We definitely have a problem with unhealthy diets in Oxford.’’ She said if supermarkets such as Tesco in Cowley Road were to get involved they would have to sell more locally-sourced food, teach people where food comes from and throw less food away.

Richard Howlett is a volunteer at Cultivate Oxford food co-operative and Oxford Community Markets (OCM), both of which have signed the charter.

He said: “Less than one per cent of what we eat in Oxford is produced in the area, and there is huge scope for that to increase.”

Good Food Oxford was founded at the end of last year by Low Carbon Oxford, in partnership with the city council.

Read the charter and sign up at goodfoodoxford.org

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