Veg Box Schemes - seasonal and local or sourced from afar?
With our standards for local produce becoming higher all the time and the supermarkets quick to respond to our demands, can veg box schemes really still offer local and fairly priced fruit and veg or are we all slaves to the supermarket?
The first veg box scheme was launched in London in 1994 and offered the good people of the capital same day harvested seasonal veg. The idea quickly caught on and now there are around 600 schemes operating around the UK. There are also some supermarkets beginning to offer boxes and in 2007 box schemes were worth more than £100 million a year.
Who doesn't want to arrive home and find a box of fresh veg and fruit waiting? Or to be at home waiting for the van to turn up with your box of delights delivered at a time to suit you so you have everything to prepare the evening meal without having to leave your home?
It all sounds too easy; with box schemes offering organic local produce, just go to the website, pick, order and wait for the box to arrive but is everything you receive as fresh and as local as the logos would have you believe......sadly not.
Is it now impossible for a veg box scheme to just offer fresh, seasonal, just dug or picked fruit as the original first box back in 1994 did?
Our demands for fruit and veg all year round is the fault of the supermarkets with huge buying power they can give us the fruit and veg when we want it and all at an affordable price, and this is no doubt having an affect on the box schemes - are they are having to adapt and offer the same range (non seasonal and therefore from abroad) as the big boys do?
One of the UK's largest box schemes is currently offering a fruit and veg box for £25.00 (12 items) of all the items in the box only 1 item is from the UK (as next to the items in the box is the country of origin), in my local supermarket I sourced the same items and found, without any trouble, 4 from the UK and for £6.89 less.
You may think 'ok the supermarket produce will be of inferior quality and won't necessary be organic as some of the box schemes claim'; but many of the items are being sourced from abroad and delivered by trucks to the supermarkets as well as the box schemes and this is no doubt having an effect on the environment. So does being organic really matter when our fruit and veg is travelling thousands of miles to get delivered, and then the veg box schemes having to race around the country trying to deliver your boxes on time in their diesel vans.
This makes it sound like I'm against veg box schemes; far from it! These, often small, businesses work very hard to deliver produce to us and many also offer meat and a variety of goods from small local companies who make amazing products you won't find in the supermarkets and this is a good thing - we need these kind of people to help support local farms and cottage style businesses. I've met some amazing people working together in a real community spirit.
Who is to blame for these kind of schemes having to change to meet demand....we are.
We want cauliflowers all year round, strawberries at Christmas and bananas in abundance and because of this the supermarkets will provide it all as long as we keep paying and everyone then has to adapt to stay afloat.
I think there is a place for veg box schemes but they need to make people alot more aware if there are items not from the UK. They have had to change dramatically but their marketing may come over as slightly misleading as they might be riding on their previous ethos' and reputation as times change. So maybe the next time you see a box scheme at a festival or food fair, you may want to ask them where their goods come from and how long they have been out the ground.
With the UK expected to have a hard time during Brexit are we still going to be able to afford to buy from a box scheme or is the supermarket in the long run going to work out better for our budgets as prices are set to climb.
I hope in an ever growing market that there is room for the underdog box schemes to hold their own.
If you want to truly buy local then go to your local farm shop and buy seasonally produced local fruit and veg - only I bet, before long, you are dreaming of fruit and veg from countries afar at a time to suit you and not mother nature....