Tower Hamlets food partnership are leading on a pioneering project, in collaboration with several other organisations and groups in the borough, to explore ways to create a community-led just food and climate transition.
If we've learnt anything in recent years, it's that we cannot rely on national government to take meaningful action on the climate and nature crisis through food. But, at a local level, food partnerships across the country are leading on really innovative work to find solutions within communities and food systems to support the health of the planet and people. The Tower Hamlets food partnership, based at Women's Environmental Network, are collaborating with the community on a an exciting new project called Just FACT.
What is Just FACT?
Just FACT is a project which seeks to find ways to create an environmentally sustainable, resilient and social food system in Tower Hamlets to ensure a future where everyone in the community has access to healthy, ethical, nutritious and culturally appropriate food. Food has a unique power to bring people together to create positive change. It creates a place where we can share knowledge, skills and gain confidence to take high impact action together as a community. Food is also at the heart of many of Tower Hamlets' residents greatest problems and the pandemic has really shown the stark reality that many people in the borough (and beyond) are unable to access nutritious and climate-friendly food.
Just Fact began in early 2021 and will be running for five years across the borough, with various projects running simultaneously led by different partners working to embed a climate and nature focussed just food system. The work happening locally ranges from strategic events and workshops, resourcing practical changes and solutions, and empowering communities with the right resources to work at the grassroots level. Partners include a food coop, a design collective, community centres, a local climate action group, low waste living experts, youth leaders and many more
A little taste of what just some of the partner organisations have planned…
Leaders in Community, a youth led organisation in Tower Hamlets, will be training local young people to become environmental leaders who will be making sure their community and age group are represented.
Platform, a climate justice organisation is running London Leap, linking in with Just FACT, to support community organisations hold local authorities to account for their climate commitments and include local voices in decision making. They will be working with the Tower Hamlets residents to implement a community-led food system which is supported by local and national governments.
Creating a circular food economy
R-Urban, a design collective, is running a community composting enterprise, taking food waste from the local housing estate and local business to use at local growing projects and eventually plan to set up as an enterprise, providing compost for the wider community. They are also running an education programme around closed-loop food growing and focusing on food in the community through a cooking and communal eating programme.
At Cranbrook Community Food Garden, they are experimenting with a new irrigation system to minimise environmental impact through storing more water and using it more effectively. They will also be developing a community food orchard to increase access to fruit for people living nearby.
Empowering the community
A social enterprise promoting low-waste living in the city, Sunny Jar Eco Hub, will be running a community project to inspire the community to come together to develop an action plan to reduce single -use plastic use.
Limborough Food Hub will be hosting an education and action programme for families and community groups, focused on growing, cooking and eating together. Things to look out for over the years will be food celebration events, a community composting scheme, food growing workshops and much more.
Growing sustainable enterprises
St Hildas Food Coop will be sharing its extensive experience in running a successful local coop to build the capacity for the growth of new sustainable community-led food coops across the borough. This includes outreach sessions, workshops and volunteer placements.
Engaging directly with market traders in Chrisp Street, the Climate Markets project aims to explore more sustainable markets, starting with reducing plastic bags. The project will work in consultation with fruit and veg traders, and national market associations, to identify barriers to best practice. Ambassador traders will trial new ideas, alongside consultations with local consumers.
The food partnership has identified three sites in Tower Hamlets which will be used by community members and partners to develop the broader vision. There are also several ‘labs’ in the region which will be focus on specific innovative solutions to problems the borough faces to do with food.
Elle McCall, Just Fact Programme Manager
“Through Just FACT we want to create a blueprint for a low carbon urban food system, that better serves local people as well as the environment. We think enabling an ecosystem of different locally-led projects in Tower Hamlets will lead to long lasting, positive change. There is an abundance of wisdom and knowledge that already exists in our communities, so we want to elevate what's already there - finding solutions that suit the local area and consider all aspects of people's lives.”
Although in its infancy, Just FACT is already proving to be a positive, collaborative (and radical!) movement which is developing genuinely community-led solutions to the climate and nature crisis through the power of food.
This case study forms a suite of local resources as part of Food for the Planet, a Sustainable Food Places campaign run by Sustain.
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Published 20 Sep 2021
Food for the Planet: Food for the Planet is helping local authorities, businesses and organisations take simple actions to tackle the climate and nature emergency through food.
Ren is the Sustainable Food Places Local Action Coordinator (on maternity cover) and leads the Programme’s Good Food Movement work, Good Food Economy and coordinates the Sugar Smart campaign. She previously coordinated Feedback’s Gleaning Network and is a Registered Associate Public Health Nutritionist.
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