Food and Agriculture minister James Paice has welcomed a report into England's local food webs and said DEFRA will study its key recommendations.
Speaking at the launch of the report in Westminster he said: "I’m sure it will make a huge contribution to future thinking across the political spectrum."
'From field to fork: The value of England's local food webs' by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) studied 19 different locations across the UK over a five year period.
The minister said: "I certainly believe we should be doing all we can to encourage the consumer to buy local food"
The report highlighted that spending on local food totals seven billion pounds per year which largely stays within each local community. The sector contributes 100,000 jobs to the UK economy.
The Minister added:
"We all want to see British food and farming succeed. Pound for pound local food shops create three times as many jobs as do supermarkets"
The report itself used 260 volunteers, held 52 public meetings, conducted over 1000 interviews with local businesses and spoke to 3,500 local people.
It estimated that local food outlets serve 16 million people per week, with £2.7 billion in local food sales each year.
The work started in 1997 when a CPRE volunteer Lady Caroline Cranbrook wanted to assess the impact that a proposed Tesco was going to have on her market town of Saxmundham in East Suffolk.
CPRE chief executive Shaun Spiers said:
"She identified what she called a self sustaining food web of mutually supported local retailers and producers.
Mr Spiers added:
“The report should also serve as a call to action for protection of our town centres. It is particularly worrying that we are on the verge of another huge expansion in large out of town superstores. There is something like 44 million square feet of new superstore development planned or in the pipeline. 80% of it is out of town.
"We are calling on the government to re-examine competition policy to give better support to retail diversity. We want to improve the ability of the planning system to ensure the vitality of town centres"
One of the many local food producers who took part in the study was the Bondgate Bakery in Otley, Yorkshire. Asked how they retain a strong local customer base, proprietor Stephen Taylor said:
"We do it through quality. That's our message. That is what has always worked since we started in 1984"
Devon MP and member of the environment, food and rural affairs select committee, Neil Parish was also keen to support the notion of quality local produce supporting local and regional economies:
"We need good local food. We have a lot of tourists who come through Devon and Cornwall. I think food is part of the culture and we have got to remember that. I very much support what the CPRE are doing on this."
Sir Bob Russell, MP for Colchester was keen to thank one of the major food retailers in his region:
“I particularly admire what the East of England Cooperative Society is doing across East Anglia in terms of local sourcing. What we are witnessing sadly with the monopolies of the major supermarkets is money being sucked out of local economies.”
The CPRE is also calling for strong leadership for the government over sustainable food procurement. "It is extraordinary that in 2008 no British apples or bacon was used in British prisons and only two per cent of poultry.”
Mr Paice referred to the work the government is already doing through the green food project and how this connected with the report's findings.
"This is about sustainability and ensuring the food supply chain that we have in this country is sustainable in the long term"
The project brings together representatives of production, consumers, environmental bodies, manufacturers and food retailers. The government hopes to publish the project's finding before the summer recess.