Supermarket shopping is ok, often tiring and sometimes horrible. The endless isles seem to invite a zombie invasion. The long queues a ploy to sell us stuff we don’t need. The staff unhappy robots with robot jobs and robot wages. Farmers’ markets are much better, if you can get to one and if they have what you want. Online food shopping works, but is another click in the wall of social isolation. Thank god there is now a new way to buy food, really good food.
The Food Assembly is a big step forwards for shoppers that want something better. The model works for customers just as much as for food producers. With the help of the internet, it blends farmers’ markets, food box schemes and community supported agriculture. You order what you want online from week to week, or not if you want to skip a week. The producers know in advance what to bring to a regular pick-up point, often a local school or sports centre.
Without much of a middleman, food producers are better paid. And happier, according to Belinda Torres-Leclercq, spokesperson for the 100 assemblies in Belgium. That is no surprise. Farming has become an increasingly lonely profession as machines have replaced teams of farm workers. Oh, and having a customer base lets farmers finally flick the bird at bullyboy supermarkets and their abusive terms of trade.
Assemblies are good for us. Some benefits are obvious: the food is fresher, healthier and often cheaper than the supermarkets. Others are less obvious: there is less plastic packaging, less food miles, more socialising. No wonder they are growing fast. Just three years after starting, there are now 300 producers serving 102,000 members (shoppers) in Belgium. Rapid growth has been driven in part by factory food scandals and health scares, according to Belinda.
If there is a downside, it could be that you do not have one near you. But with plenty of advice and support waiting to help you start your own, this shouldn’t stop you. The Food Assembly is a movement. One that is waiting for you.