London restaurants 'adopt a plot'
London Food Link is a sustainable food network in the capital. One of its most recent initiatives is connecting community food growing spaces from the Capital Growth project with local restaurants and caterers in the Ethical Eats network. This “Adopt a plot” scheme asks local restaurants to make a small financial contribution to the community spaces in return for a share of the produce.
One such innovative project involves Melior Street, St Mungo’s and The Table Café. London Melior Street is a community garden in central London that is managed by St Mungo’s a charity that works with homeless people. In addition to their plot at Melior Street, St Mungo’s also have a much larger food growing site six miles away in Tottenham. London Food Link have worked with St Mungo’s to successfully link then with a buyer with the aim of having a long-term profitable relation for both parties. Melior Street is now working with The Table Café in Southwark. It is early days but the match is working well for both parties and they are currently exploring how it can develop. Shaun Alpine-Crabtree the head chef at The Table has given a list of crops that they are interested in purchasing in the next season. The Table are currently paying an average of £150-£200 each week for produce that is income for St Mungo’s.
"In the early stages the community gardens that I work with do not think they are in a position to sell their produce to restaurants. They generally do not think they have enough produce to be able to meet a commercial kitchen demand. I work with them to understand the value of their produce and that certain buyers can be flexible and accommodating. In general the restaurants that we work with have several things in common, they all cook seasonal food, change their menu’s regularly and source food with strong providence. They also see it as a positive way to engage and work with local people which is a change from their normal customers.”
Eloise Dey, Capital Growth, the campaign for 2,012 new community food growing spaces by the end of 2012, supported by the Mayor of London, London Food Link and the Big Lottery
Team London Bridge, in partnership with Southwark Council, upgraded the previously derelict open space on Melior Street, to include a pocket plaza park and a community growing space. The plans include a community herb and vegetable garden, a potting shed, reclaimed timber planters and plenty of communal areas to sit and enjoy the green oasis. The garden is maintained by St. Mungo’s and their ‘Putting Down Roots’ programme. They are currently selling their community grown produce to a local restaurant, The Table Café in Southwark.
This case study is an extract from the report A Growing Trade (free to download as a PDF), published in January 2012 by Local Action on Food as part of the Big Lottery funded Making Local Food Work programme. it is a practical guide for local communities, to help them grow food and become more financially independent through trading in fresh and local produce.
Find out more about Melior Street Community Garden: www.mungos.org/pdr
If you are a restaurant or caterer interested in getting your hands on the very freshest ingredients from hyper-local community food growing sites in London, then get in contact with the Ethical Eats team. Contact: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org; or call: 0203 5596 777.