Lots of Londoners visit farmers' markets at the weekend to source produce that isn’t flown half way across the world, coated in pesticides and packaged in layers of plastic. It's often hard to resist the convenience of an online supermarket shop, however, eliminating faff by browsing and ordering items at your own leisure, often on the internet from your desk or sofa. With retailers generating obscene amounts of food waste every day, and buyers increasingly conscious about sustainability, food assemblies are coming to London to offer us another option: a weekly online shop, collected directly from the producers at a location near you.
An idea spawned in the South of France, Food Assemblies are now catching on across the Channel, with a handful already active in North and South London. Produce must be locally sourced — within a 150-mile radius — and while not exclusively organic, producers tend to be small-scale with high eco-standards. There are now over 400 such assemblies in France and Belgium.
For the farmers or producers, the advantage is their produce is pre-ordered, minimising food (and time) waste; supply matches demand and as each assembly holds weekly two-hour events, or collection times, suppliers don't have to spend all day at a farmer's market with no guarantee of sale.
We recently spoke to Danni Rochman and Alessandra Lauria, the founders of London's latest Food Assembly in Stoke Newington. Rochman told us:
"What's so unique about Food Assembly is that it gives people the convenience of internet shopping whilst putting them back in touch with the people behind their food. For example, we spent a lovely afternoon on Hazledene Farm with Liz and Steve on their farm in Chesham visiting their Rare Breed animals and were impressed by their absolute commitment to high welfare, small scale farming. We really hope to offer locals a better alternative to supermarket shopping."
With the seemingly never-ending march of Tesco on to our local high streets, that can't be a bad thing.
The Stoke Newington Assembly launches on 21 October and takes place every Tuesday from 6.30pm-8.30pm at The Prince pub on Kynaston Road.