Lauren Branson says if there is one silver-lining to come out of a global pandemic, it’s that more people are gravitating toward consuming natural produce.
As Chief Executive of Your Food Collective, the passionate foodie believes returning to sourcing fresh local produce will not only be a win-win for buyers and sellers, but also for the environment, our bodies and our tastebuds.
As a mother-of-five young children, Lauren says feeding a family nutritious and wholesome food every meal should be as simple as opening a box.
After witnessing bushfires and drought threatening a shortage of fresh produce last season, Lauren and her cousin Cara Cooper have launched their business aimed at acting as a link between growers and dinner plates.
“With COVID more people are now staying in their homes and ordering online,” she says.
“It’s more important than ever to get fresh produce from local growers into homes, rather than supermarket bags filled with food that is not remotely fresh or nutritious.”
Your Food Collective is Newcastle-based online food distributer delivering fresh, local produce to the Sydney and Newcastle region.
Supporting local is at the heart of Lauren’s business.
“We are very lucky here in Newcastle, we are surrounded by producers who can supply us with beautiful fresh food all grown within 200 kilometres of our home base,” she says.
“Our beef and lamb come from Scone, our fruit and veg from Hunter and Peats Ridge, and our local cafes and restaurants supply things like our curry pastes, breads and ready-made meals.”
Lauren and Cara both swapped corporate careers to don high-vis vests and gumboots each day at their Tighes Hill food hub.
Their motivation is to repair what they say is a catastrophe.
“Our food system is completely broken,” Lauren says.
“We need to make changes and we’re trying to drive that. This is a massive issue.
“Our population is set to double by 2050 which means our food produce will need to double as well, but how do we sustain that?”
Lauren believes that buying from local producers is a good start.
“It means farmers in the region can survive, with 80 cents from every dollar returning to the farm,” she says.
“If you buy from a grocery store it’s only 20 cents in every dollar.
“In the last five years we’ve lost 25 per cent of small to medium sized farms because no one pays what they’re worth.
“Banana producers in the region can travel down to the Central Coast to sell their fruit and by the time they get there they’ll get more for the cardboard box.”
She adds buying local also means eating fresher.
“At the moment 90 per cent of our supermarkets are filled with packaged goods that are not fresh and have no flavour,” she says.
“We’ve lost what food should taste like. Food now is picked well before it’s ripe, then ripened in storage and then eaten, without the taste it was meant to have.
“In fact the average food item on our grocery shelves has travelled further than most families go on holidays each year.”