A RALLYING cry has been issued for people to “stay local” and continue shopping with their community’s independent producers they have discovered during the pandemic.
Many customers have been praising the small, regional businesses they have been buying from during the coronavirus outbreak.
They have included farm shops, fruit and veg stores, bakeries, butchers and micro-breweries who have adapted during the outbreak to delivery and takeaways.
Many also helped reach vulnerable people in the community by producing food boxes which could be delivered direct.
Now Hampshire Fare – a food group dedicated to supporting the county’s producers and businesses – wants people to remember the quality and freshness they have enjoyed during lockdown and carry on supporting those businesses as restrictions lift.
The not-for-profit organisation has nearly 400 members from the food, drink and craft industry as well as the hospitality business.
Tracy Nash, Hampshire Fare commercial manager, described its campaign for people to shop local as “a celebration of the brilliant service people have received from independent retailers and local producers during lockdown.
“More importantly, however, the objective of our campaign is to ask: why should that experience of going into a local store, being looked after, receiving personal service, perhaps being provided with home delivery, end with lockdown easing?”
She said people should stay loyal to relationships they have formed with independent producers and suppliers over the last ten weeks.
Posters asking people to “stay local” will be appearing in shops and across online in the near future.
During the pandemic, the A&T has reported how businesses diversified to offer people their produce and keep themselves going. They included bars and micro-breweries offering collection and delivery direct to customers after the hospitality industry closed down.
Bakeries, butchers and fruit and veg suppliers who normally trade with restaurants and hotels have been opening up their businesses to the public. Many have said they will continue to do so after lockdown is over.
People have praised the quality of the produce they have found in independent stores with many admitting that if it had not been for the lockdown they might never have discovered them at all.
Ms Nash said: “The core of our campaign message is loyalty. Maintaining these relationships is important for several reasons, including community, economy, sustainability and wellbeing.
“Having a relationship with your local community helps people to feel connected which is good for mental health.
“Sustainability is key to our environment.
“Finally, supporting local creates a strong, local economy that will make us more resilient.”
The campaign is being supported by Hampshire County Council and Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) through funding from the LEP’s economic recovery plan to support the area’s long-term vitality.
LEP chief executive Kathy Slack said: “Loyal, local customers are the backbone of any rural food business and I’m sure this simple but powerful message will encourage people to support their local producers at a time when they need it most.”
Cllr Rob Humby, deputy leader and cabinet member for economy, transport and environment at Hampshire County Council, said: “This coronavirus outbreak has shown us how we can live differently.
“Local food shops and suppliers stepped up immediately when the government asked us to stay at home as much as possible, playing an enormous role in helping us keep our cupboards stocked when we needed to reduce our travel and stay safe.”
The first phase of the campaign will encompass local producers and small independent retailers who have been operating throughout lockdown. The second phase will support the return of the hospitality sector.
Ms Nash added: “We want to sing out about all the good work that has been achieved, so that people will stay loyal and others will consider using local as well.
“Our farmers, local producers and small independents are the lifeblood of this county.
“They helped their communities and through this campaign we are empowering them to ask their communities for support in return. They are going to need all the support they can get.
“We are simply asking: stay loyal, stay local.”