Transition Leytonstone, in collaboration with OrganicLea, runs a market stall each Saturday between St John’s church and Matalan. Some of the produce is grown at OrganicLea’s site in Chingford, with the rest being sourced from as close to London as possible. Of course, organic food is available nowadays in supermarkets, and with their advantages of scale and low prices why should you buy from the Transition stall? Well, here are a few reasons to mull over…
The stall has far more choice and variety of organic fruit and veg than the supermarkets. On 5th January, products for which Tesco Leytonstone had no organic equivalent included Bramley cooking apples, beetroot, parsnips, swede, red cabbage, rainbow chard, cavelo nero (black kale), celeriac and winter squashes.
Most of the produce on the stall is grown in Chingford, Essex, Kent or East Anglia and so comes with a relatively small carbon ‘footprint’. By contrast Tesco’s organic pears and red onions, when checked on 5th Jan, had travelled from the Netherlands (the ones on the stall were from Kent and Norfolk respectively); Tesco’s organic spinach was from Spain (the spinach on the stall was grown in Essex); and most strikingly Tesco was selling organic garlic bulbs imported all the way from China, whereas OrganicLea is growing garlic just down the road in Chingford.
No plastic packaging
For anyone concerned about the amount of plastic packaging our modern lifestyles create, supermarket organic fruit and veg poses a problem. As supermarket staff need to be able to easily distinguish between non-organic and organic produce, the organic produce is never sold loose but in prepacked bags. On the stall most produce is sold loose (paper bags are available).
Buy only what you need
Of course along with the reduction in packaging, on the Transition/OrganicLea stall you can buy exactly the quantity of fruit or vegetables that you want. In Tesco, for example, it’s impossible to buy just one organic apple, lemon, onion or garlic bulb but on the stall if you only need one or two, that’s all you pay for.
Does your local supermarket offer you the chance to linger and chat with volunteers and other customers about good food and recipe ideas? Does it produce a newsletter telling you who grew your vegetables and how to cook them? No, I thought not!
But let’s confront that elephant in the room – price. Isn’t it much cheaper to buy from the supermarket? When I checked on 5th Jan the answer was ‘not really’. Tesco was slightly cheaper on most things where a comparison was possible, but the differences were mainly small and as previously mentioned only prepacked bags of produce were on offer. Here are a few examples:
Tesco – £1.60 for a 630g bag = £2.54/kg
Stall – £4/kg
So, these were cheaper in Tesco – but only if you want a bag of them. On the stall you can buy exactly the number that you want.
Tesco – £2.50 for a 550g bag = £4.55/kg
Stall – £4.80/kg
A marginal difference, and the stall pears were British (from Kent) whereas those in Tesco had been imported from the Netherlands.
Tesco – bag of 3 for £1.50. Based on a weight of around 125g for a typical lemon, this is equivalent to £4/kg, exactly the same as the price on the stall (where they don’t have to be bought in multiples of three!).
Here are a few examples of veg prices…
Tesco – £1 for a 700g bag = £1.43/kg
Stall – £1.80/kg (and buy exactly the number you want)
Tesco – £1.25 for a 750g bag = £1.67/kg
Stall – £1.80/kg
Spinach (200g bag)
So in summary, yes there’s a small premium for buying from the stall rather than the supermarket but we hope that the other benefits will make you feel that’s a premium you’re prepared to pay. As a non-profit organisation, OrganicLea passes on those slightly higher prices to its suppliers. For an extra couple of pounds per shop you can be sure that the farmers and growers who produced your food are being paid fairly for their work; and on food miles, choice and variety, waste reduction and that all-important personal touch we think the stall is hard to beat.
The Transition Leytonstone & OrganicLea market stall is between St John’s church and Matalan (E11 1HH) every Saturday from 10.30am to 3pm.
If you’re passionate about local, organic, packaging-free healthy food and would like to find out more about volunteering on the stall, please email RoseMary – firstname.lastname@example.org.