A centre for pilgrimage in Norfolk, in Walsingham supports local employment and cuts food miles through its commitment to sourced products.
The Anglican Shrine in Walsingham provides pilgrim services and hospitality for approximately 20,000 visitors annually. A commitment to sustainability is at the heart of its hospitality offering. The Shrine provides accommodation and three cooked meals every day for 44 weeks of the year, sourcing local produce wherever possible. This includes working with producers and sourcing produce that is home grown or harvested nearby, for example lavender from the Shrine Gardens is an ingredient in biscuits on sale in the café, and elderflower is harvested to make cordial. A wide range of products are bought locally including: apple juice from Norfolk apples is sourced from 4 miles away, bread from a local baker, and icecream from a farm 10 miles away that has diversified after the introduction of milk quotas. Products that are more expensive such as organic meat are bought at a negotiated rate due to their regular custom. Vegan products are also available. Local suppliers are also prioritising sustainability for example those that supply the Shrine’s cheese are carbon neutral – an anaerobic digester on the farm produces energy and hot water from the whey. Beer and gin are also produced locally in family businesses using local barley. The Shrine also makes a significant contribution to local employment - many of its 75 staff and +40 volunteers are local residents. It also works to encourage local trade (including cycling groups) to come to the café to sustain employment in low season.
Understanding where local sustainable suppliers are, working to promote their businesses and build reliable relationship.
Evidence of success
Many of the Shrine’s suppliers have supplied the Shrine for decades. 70% of products are bought locally and the Shrine also sources award-wining local produce, for example Mrs Temple’s Cheese (British Cheese Awards). The quality of food is reported by pilgrims in their testimonials on pilgrim feedback forms and Google Reviews.
Producing 85,000 meals annually for pilgrims, sometimes it is difficult to meet demand by local suppliers alone. Prices of quality local food are negotiated to ensure cost-effectiveness and quality also needs to be maintained taking into account budget constraints.
Potential for learning or transfer
Pilgrim accommodation is a potential ‘shop window’ for local businesses. Accommodation can promote their use of local food brands, adding value to their pilgrim offerings. Food production is a key part of sustainability, and accommodation can lower their environmental impact by sourcing food locally – this also has a positive sustainability effect on the local community through supporting local employment.