Meet the entrepreneurs 'Feeding The City'

Iolanda Chirico and Marco Munoz showcasing some of the Refugee Cafe's pilot products. Taken by: Sujeewa Samasundara

Published: 27 Nov 2020

During the last nine months we have seen disruption in our food supply chains, raising many questions about their resilience. Here Camille Goetz explores how a new breed of food start-ups is rising to the challenge of how we can feed our cities. 

As COVID-19 wreaked havoc in our kitchens, shops and further along the supply chain, many became aware of the fragilities and inequalities in our food system. Families found themselves without food, supermarkets shelves were empty and supply chains obstructed or interrupted. But underneath the chaos of the pandemic, a seed of change has been waiting for the right conditions to sprout. We have been given the opportunity to rebuild a food system that is more responsible, sustainable and equitable. 

At the Impact Hub King’s Cross, we have long advocated for a better food system for people, planet and animals. In 2017, we created Feeding the City Start Up, a UK-wide 12-month programme that supports the launch of sustainable community-based food businesses to launch. 92% of these supported businesses have been female-founded. Now in its third year, Feeding the City currently supports eight businesses to address a variety of challenges from childhood obesity to urban food production. 

The programme and our participants are scattered across the UK, sometimes addressing the same challenge in different corners of the nation. Three of the 8 teams are based in London. Global Feast, who celebrate migrant and minority food cultures with a delivery service supplied by migrant and minority-owned bakeries, grocers and delis. The Refugee Cafe in Lewisham provides refugees with a path to employment by training them in the preparation, service and sale of delicious international food. 

“Working at the Cafe has given me purpose in the dark days of Covid when I am stuck at home with nothing to do. I have met so many nice people and feel part of the community more. I also like writing about the cuisine in my country for the monthly blog. I am also happy to participate in the new Hot food take away from Catford Mews.” Ismail, Chef at the Refugee Cafe.  

 And in Brentford, Jacquie Mcbeth is fighting the child obesity crisis one vegetable-filled meal at the time with Stir it up, a vegetable recipe box for the whole family.  

Not far from London, we are helping Field Bakery in Bristol, who are working together with Gothelney Farm to share their knowledge of sourdough baking and educate local communities about the importance of sustainable UK-grown cereal. Jumping to the other side of the country, the Scottish Highlands, bread activism is taking place in a mobile micro-bakery (a converted horsebox!). Founder Rosie Gray from Reviving Food bakes bread and pastries using organic grains from UK growers and millers to nourish her local community. 

Travel a few hours south and meet Sara Macmillan from the Kitchen at 44 in Stirling, a community kitchen with a tiny rooftop farm and cookery school. Giving back to the community is in her DNA; when the pandemic hit, Sara set up an emergency food distribution centre in the kitchen and distributed over 6000kg of food. In Wales, Louise Shute from Shoots Market is setting up a social enterprise supermarket that brings local, healthy, sustainable and affordable products to her local community, providing convenience without compromise. In Brighton, Fungi Town are growing mushrooms in urban spaces using a closed-loop system. Founders Patricia Eich and Caryn Swart work with local volunteers to share their knowledge and educate their community on the environmental benefits of mushrooms. 

Feeding the City Start Up is open to individuals and groups passionate about creating good food-related businesses that add real value to the communities they are serving. Find out more.

Have a brilliant idea that could be supported on the programme? Applications for the next round will open in January 2021. Sign up here to stay in the loop.