Local Food Industry responds to impact of Covid19

When Covid-19 struck back in mid-March, it brought with it legitimate fears for the future of the local food and drink industry.

Cavan Food Network Members rose to the challenge. What followed during those long days of lockdown, travel restrictions, and social distancing was a remarkable effort by the industry to reinvent themselves and come up with new ways of working.

From well-known restaurants such as the Oak Room Restaurant in Bridge Street, Cavan operating a take away service, to MacNean House and Restaurant in Blacklion providing meals for local cocooners, or producers such as Ice Cream Treats and Vanilla Bean Patisserie providing home deliveries while local cafés offered phone in lunch orders with socially distanced collections – there was a complete reimagination of the food and drink experience in Cavan.

Our food and drink producers lost many of the markets for their products, whether they were selling into cafés, restaurants and hotels or via Farmers Markets, which were forced to close when lockdown hit. Box schemes such as the innovative Local Green Box Cavan and NeighbourFood Belturbet met the challenge head on.

The Local Green Box Cavan is co-ordinated by Imelda Mullen of The Cottage Market, West Cavan. It is a weekly food box supplied by an enterprising group of local growers and artisan food producers. On a weekly basis, local producers supply the box with seasonal, ethically grown, sustainable food. Their carbon footprint is reduced by only using producers from Cavan or our six border counties. They work collectively to reduce and eliminate packaging whilst use of their online ordering system eliminates food loss and food waste as producers know exactly what they are going to sell when they are preparing the orders.

The Local Green Box opens for orders on Sunday at 12pm and closes on Wed at 12pm Collections take place every Friday in Cavan Town from 4-6 pm at the Conaty Centre in Cullies and Ballyconnell from 6.00 – 6.30 p m at Lizzie Buggies. While the Local Green Box Cavan was in existence in 2019 – the Covid crisis led to the scheme being expanded to cover Cavan Town in 2020.

Oak Room Takeaways
Green Box Image

Local food producers Charlene Brady of ‘Charlene’s Wholesome Pantry’, and Felix Cropp of ‘The Good Crop Company’ launched NeighbourFood Belturbet in response to the Covid19 crisis.

NeighbourFood is a franchise established in Cork City by Jack Crotty and Martin Poucher in 2018 to “bring the best produce to your table, support our incredible local food producers and build a community around delicious food”. With NeighbourFood 80% of whatever is spent goes directly to the producer themselves. NeighbourFood seeks to promote small scale producers and fairer food prices for all. All of the products listed in a NeighbourFood market are grown or produced by local farmers or artisan producers and it gives even the smallest producer an outlet for their produce. An added benefit for the producer is once you are listed in one NeighbourFood market you can place your products for sale in any other NeighbourFood market nationwide.

NeighbourFood, Belturbet’s online marketplace, opens on Saturday evenings and customers have until midnight on Tuesday to place their order, with collection on Fridays between 5 pm and 7 pm at Felix’s warehouse at Unit 12 in the Creeney Business Park, Belturbet.

Both of these initiatives can be commended for highlighting the local food and drink industry and giving local consumers the opportunity to support local whereever possible. They are both responsive to the needs and wants of their consumers with new products being added to the online selling platforms every week. Seasonality is very important, and the products offered change from week to week depending on what is available from the local producers. This guarantees that the freshest and best quality produce is available on a weekly basis.

The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted that there is an appetite among consumers to purchase local products and support local businesses. As the economy is reopening, we should continue to seek out small, local independent businesses and give them the support they need to survive. A localised economy benefits us all.