Margaret Roddy looks at the impact virus has had on the local food industry
The lockdown imposed in mid-March was the springboard for student Isobel Jones bringing the Neighbourhood Food Market to her native Blackrock.
Isobel, who turned 21 during lockdown, was doing an internship with Deloitte as part of her third year studies in Food and Agricultural Business Management at UCD, when like the rest of the country she found herself working at home.
Witnessing the demand for on-line shopping, she decided to offer people the opportunity to buy from the best of local Irish producers through the click and collect system that is available through the Neighbourhood Food initiative.
'I had heard of Neighbourhood Food from a friend in Tipperary,' she says. 'It's an on-line farmers' market that has really grown in popularity as the farmers' markets around the country couldn't take place which was causing problems for all the small food producers.'
There are several Neighbourhood Food markets in Munster as well as a number in Dublin and this is the first one in north Leinster.
Isobel cleared out a shed at her family home at Seafield Road and began contacting local producers so that customers could collect their boxes on Saturday mornings.
'Most of the producers are from the north east as they need to be able to drop off their produce, although there are a couple from Tipperary.'
At the moment, 28 producers have signed up to Neighbourhood Food Blackrock, with over 600 products ranging from bread to organic beef, from home-grown vegetables to locally produced honey, from sweet treats to gin.
'Customers go on-line, select whatever products they want and pay for it on-line, and then collect it on Saturday morning between 11am and 1pm,' says Isobel.
The beauty of Neighbourhood Food is that people can buy as little or as much as they want, whether it's a pot of jam or a weekly shop.
So far over 600 people have signed up for Neighbourhood Food Blackrock and Isobel says that there is an average of 80 to 100 customers a week placing orders.
'Most of the customers come from Blackrock, Castlebellingham, Dundalk and Ardee,' she says.
While the market was set up to meet a particular need at a time when many people felt reluctant about going to the supermarket, Isobel is delighted to be able to continue supporting local food producers as well helping promote sustainable shopping by reducing food air miles and excess packaging.
As the market takes place on Saturday mornings, Isobel intends continuing with it when she goes into her fourth year studies at UCD, although in common with students everywhere, she doesn't know how much time will be spend on campus.
To join the market, simply log onto www.neighbourhood.ie/blackrock
Ruairi Browne and Laura McMenamy of Great Northern Larder became the knights in shining armour for local food producers when they linked up with the Boyne Valley Flavours group during lockdown to provide a digital marketplace for them to sell their produce.