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Sustainable Food Places: Joining the dots on local food

As part of the Sustainable Food Places Day of Celebration and Action on 10th June, organised to acknowledge the amazing work of food partnerships during the pandemic, Sofia Parente explains what are food partnerships and why you should create one in your borough. 

Kemi Akinola, the CEO of Be-Enriched. Credit Miles Willis

Picture: Kemi Akinola, the CEO of Be-Enriched. Credit Miles Willis

Published: 09/06/2020

We put ourselves at the centre to join up the dots’- these are the words describing the work of a food partnership by the coordinator of the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership but they ring true to describe the role of food partnership everywhere in the country. Local food partnerships bring together the public sector, civil society, businesses and community members to work together to create a better food system. Taking a joined-up approach within a borough allows partnerships to address a wide range of food issues and help elevate the profile of food in the public and political agenda, attract funding for local initiatives, reduce duplication of work and improve collaboration.

Food Partnerships play a vital role during the best of times, but this role has never been more crucial. Right from the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, job losses, empty supermarket shelves, food shortages and oversubscribed online delivery services meant that thousands of low-income and vulnerable Londoners were left behind the limited food response organised by the Government. But food partnerships across the capital and the country have been responding in amazing ways, in collaboration with local authorities.

Good Food Greenwich

In Greenwich, for example, the Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency, working in partnership with the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Charlton Athletic Community Trust and a host of other local organisations, quickly mobilised to develop a structure of food support for vulnerable residents. The structure was set up quickly and saw at one point staff from the local Ikea helping pack food boxes and distribute them using its ample car parking space, allowing for safe distancing when collecting. Having Good Food Greenwich in place (the local food partnership) made a huge difference because of the historical and strong relationships between council and other organisations in the borough fostered by the food partnership over the years.

Local lifelines

This culture of collaboration saw the community sector stepping in to help those in need. Community responses have been a life-line for thousands of vulnerable Londoners who continue to rely on these local networks. In Wandsworth and Lambeth, Be Enriched and Brixton People’s Kitchen have joined forces to deliver emergency food boxes, producing home cooked meals in collaboration with Lambeth and Wandsworth Councils. They are working with mutual aid groups, are fundraising online, and have repurposed funds from their existing funders. Kemi Akinola, the CEO of Be-Enriched and Wandsworth Food Partnership facilitator believes that austerity measures are the very argument for a government role in funding community-led emergency food responses. ‘The government should be funding this work. People have been living with hunger for years. If we the people don't make [the government] pay for it, they'll never know the true cost of hunger.’

Take it to the top

To put a spotlight on the vital work of food partnerships, Sustainable Food Places and its network of 60 local food partnerships, supported by over 30 food and farming organisations, academics and experts, wrote to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick. The letter asks Government to recognise the vital work of local food partnerships during Covid-19 and to support one food partnership in every local area in the UK.

This direct appeal to Government is part of the Sustainable Food Places Day of Celebration and Action which also includes members contacting their MPs to highlight their local efforts and a celebration of the vital role of food partnerships happening on twitter under #goodfoodtogether #foodpartnership.

Among the 33 London boroughs, eight have a food partnership: Greenwich, Hackney, Islington, Lambeth, Lewisham, Sutton, Tower Hamlets and Wandsworth. They are joined by the London Food Board. There is clearly space for more food partnerships in London boroughs!

Get involved in the day of action

If you are part of, or have worked with a local food partnership, we are asking you to share what you’re most proud of in working to create a better food system for everyone in these challenging times. Post on social media one thing you are really proud of about your local food partnership's work. Use the hashtags #goodfoodtogether #foodpartnership and tag @FoodCities, @MHCLG, @RobertJenrick, your local food partnership and local authority to spread the word on social media and help increase our reach. And if you don’t know the work of your local food partnership, maybe this is the time to find out more and get involved in your borough.

If you are not part of a local food partnership, sign up to the Sustainable Food Places newsletter and get in touch to find out how your borough can become a member.


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