Sustain project reports
April – June 2015

Ambassador Network
Contact Ben Reynolds

The ambassadors network is one of four strands of the Wellcome Trust Food and Drink initiative, now called The Crunch. Sustain is a sub-partner of the Eden Project who are leading on implementing the Ambassadors Network. Whilst the programme will not be public until later in 2016, the text below provides some more information from the Wellcome Trust:

Food and drink is an essential part of all our lives. But how do global changes in population and climate affect our food supply and our health? And how could our food choices affect the future of the environment? The Wellcome Trust aims to increase conversation on these topics at all levels, from academic debates to chats in the playground. The Food and Drink Initiative will be rolled out across 2016, with practical science kits going to every school in the UK, nationwide experiences for families, a training programme for ambassadors to help deliver grassroots activities, and a piece of work encouraging discussion, to inform research funding and policy making. Impact research will also measure the long-term effects of the project.

Sustain are currently recruiting for a project officer who can lead on Sustain’s part of this project. Beyond Sustain’s role in providing expertise in the content, ensuring it is reflective of up to date food and drink issues, this officer will lead on the recruitment of ambassadors and providing ongoing support after the initial training events. These (500) ambassadors will be recruited from around 10 – 15 locations around the UK, with a particular focus on the following communities: Students and apprentices, youth workers, community project leaders, community planners, researchers, public health officers, farmers and farm education specialists. The recruitment of ambassadors will take place in Autumn 2015, with events run for all ambassadors in early 2016, and ongoing support and activities throughout the rest of the year.


Big Dig 
Contact Sarah Williams,

  • Big Dig launches online Harvest-ometer for Manchester growing groups

This quarter saw the Big Dig network helping other cities to engage people in food growing through the launch of the online Harvest-ometer in Manchester working with Sow the City and the Council’s Growing Manchester scheme.  The online tool helps growing groups to record their harvest and value their crops as well as providing invaluable records.  The scheme also provides a map of groups registering to use it and so provides a chance to engage more volunteers in these gardens.  Plans are underway to expand this into more towns and cities in the UK. 


Campaign for Better Hospital Food
Contact Alex Jackson or Kath Dalmeny;

  • Campaign to protect Oxfordshire hospital kitchens reaches fever pitch
  • Other local campaigns in Luton and Dunstable inspired by Oxford example
  • Building support for a new Hospital Food Bill and more government action

The campaign to protect hospital kitchens at five separate sites at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has reached a crescendo. Since April 2015, and in partnership with our growing Oxford alliance, we have carried out different activities aimed at piling more pressure on the Trust. This includes surveying local people to demonstrate their opposition to the closures and handing in our public petition to the Trust’s Board.

In June we also carried out a campaign calling on local people to send in a 45p cheque to help halt the closures. With the closures anticipated to save the Trust £300,000, each Oxfordshire resident would need to contribute this much to make up the shortfall.

Our campaign activity in this time has received extensive press coverage, including on the TV and radio, and in numerous local newspapers. The effectiveness of the campaign has also led to a local UNISON group orchestrating a copy-cat campaign to stop hospital kitchen closures in Luton and Dunstable.

Nationally, we have revamped the Campaign’s website, including our online action to reflect the composition of the new government. We have also been building support for the introduction of a new Hospital Food Bill to Parliament, including approaching each of the twenty MPs drawn from the Commons’ Private Members’ Bill ballot. We have also surveyed our campaign supporters to inform plans for an “inexcusable food” campaign, intended to draw attention to the government’s unreasonably weak hospital food standards.

Unfortunately we didn’t win the BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Award we were shortlisted for, but were happy to see The Food Assembly pick up the accolade!


Capital Growth 
Contact Claire Gilbert (, Maddie Guerlain, Julie Riehl, or Sarah Williams;

  • ‘Get Ready for Urban Food Fortnight’ event inspires Capital Growth members to become more enterprising, with over 40 attending from across London.
  • Schools Summer Photo Competition held to celebrate London’s food growing schools
  • 133 employee volunteers help out at Capital Growth spaces on 15 May as part of Give & Gain day/ Capital Growth Connect service relaunched to help growing spaces to benefit from employee volunteering and over
  • 36 Capital Growth spaces were among the gardens participating in Open Garden Square Weekend on 13-14 June

Capital Growth held a repeat of its very successful Get Ready for Urban Food Fortnight event, to help small scale growers take part in the two week celebration of urban food held this year between 11 - 27 September.  The event included talk from Growhampton, botanical cocktails provided by the ‘Cocktail Gardener’ and workshops from the Kings Cross Skip Garden and patchwork farmer, Ida Fabrizio.  The event was attended by 40 people, representing a mix of Capital Growth growers and London Food supporters, who were also invited to the event.  Feedback showed that the evening was a success in helping create new connections and inspiring groups to get involved in Urban Food Fortnight.

Capital Growth is also helping to plan the next London Food Link event, ‘Urban Food Fortnight: Get Connected’ which will target more established growers, producers and retailers connected for Urban Food Fortnight 2015.

This quarter Capital Growth as part of its work to support Food Growing Schools London, launched and judged our Schools Summer Photo Competition which encouraged schools to send us pictures of pupils and local communities growing food on the school ground. This competition complemented the Grow Your Own Picnic activities organised by the FGSL Team. Eleven schools entered the competition with a range of excellent photos showing pupils growing and harvesting school grown produce and will receive their prizes in July at City Hall during our School Marketplace in July.

Eleven growing groups benefited from national corporate volunteering day ‘Give & Gain’ on 15 May, with 133 volunteers helping out across London.  Many more groups were interested and as a result Capital Growth relaunched its online service to match corporate volunteer groups with growing projects who need help to set up or improve their food growing space.

On 13-14 June 36 Capital Growth spaces were among the gardens taking part in Open Garden Squares Weekend including our Allotment Garden in Regent’s Park which welcomed over 80 attendees.  The Allotment Garden also hosted a number of training events and school sessions helping people to learn more about growing food.

Capital Growth welcomed new project officer Maddie Guerlain; originally from Vermont in the US, Maddie will be running events, membership services and projects relating to enterprise, employment and skills.


Children’s Food Campaign
Contact Malcolm Clark,

  • Food marketing and anti-obesity measures were referenced in many of the parties’ election manifestos.
  • The All Party Parliamentary Group on Fit and Healthy Childhood’s report on food in schools included a more robust section on commercial involvement in schools than the original draft.
  • Reporting and analysis of the soft drinks and energy drinks sectors has been shaped by our campaigning.

Junk Food Marketing campaign

Our campaigning – together with efforts by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and others – helped result in the Labour, Liberal Democrats and Green parties all making specific commitments on reformulation and/or marketing of junk food to children within their manifestos.

We are still waiting for the Government’s official response to our joint petition with the British Heart Foundation calling for the closing of loopholes currently allowing junk food marketing to children.  In the meantime, we have been looking at other ways of getting our message across to the new Conservative administration, and have created a lobbying map of key marketing stakeholders and influencers.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s evaluation of the food part of the Responsibility Deal, published in May, echoed many of our concerns and criticism and has provided a focus for our call for food marketing to be included within any new Responsibility Deal. 

In June our analysis of Morrisons’ latest price cuts on “cupboard essentials”, showing that they were heavily skewed to less healthy options, was aimed at pushing this agenda forward, and got the attention not just of The Mirror, but also of the Department of Health too. At the British Dietetic Association’s reception to mark Dietetic Week, we presented Public Health Minister Jane Ellison with a set of our checkout challenge pass and fail cards, to remind her of the patchy progress by retailers in this area.

School food

Together with Save our School Food Standards campaign partners, we wrote to the main political parties and asked them to continue the good work of the School Food Plan by making school food standards mandatory in all schools. During April we received answers from each of the parties and posted them up on our website. Post-election, a follow up letter has now been sent to the Conservatives.

Thanks to our intervention in the drafting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fit and Healthy Childhood’s report into food in schools and the teaching of food, the final report adopts a more cautionary approach to the involvement of the food industry in schools.

Children’s Health Fund / Sugary Drinks Duty

The Food Research Collaboration’s publication on health-related taxes on food and beverages was published in late May. We were very involved in shaping the scope of the briefing document, so it could provide up-to-date information and help inform the sugary drinks tax debate. 

The Grocer led its annual report on the energy drinks sector by quoting our criticisms of the contents and marketing practices of many of the brands.  We have made links with Scottish campaign group ‘Responsible Retailing of Energy Drinks’ to see how we can progress our respective campaigns and engage more with the SNP. 

Meetings – at their instigation – with WaterUK (the body representing tap water suppliers) and with the head of Coca-Cola UK demonstrate the extent to which industry is taking note of CFC’s campaigning.


Farming Policy
Contact Vicki Hird or Ben Reynolds,  

  • We have republished Double Yield with a new foreword
  • We have held two working party meetings so far with many members - leading to production of draft narrative and plans for campaigning on farm policy -focussing especially on the role of sustainable farming in creating better jobs and more jobs.
  • We are working to secure funds for baseline and policy research and hope to publish a new briefing and run an event on the issues in Mid November

The new government will be launching a consultation on their 25 year framework for food/farming and for natural capital, so this is a key chance to try and build a public mandate for action to create better farming in the UK and deliver better and new jobs in the process.


Growing Health
Contact Maria Devereux or Sarah Williams,

  • Front page of a national newspaper
  • Successful ‘Prescribing Gardening’ conference
  • Launch of our champions programme

In the lead up to the ‘Prescribing Gardening’ conference Growing Health was the lead story in the Daily Express on the 16th May 2015. The article by Louise Newlands, health journalist for the Daily Express, covered the use of gardening prescriptions for patients with conditions such as dementia, stress, depression, weight management and lowering blood pressure as well as wider physical, mental and social benefits. A speaker at the conference, Professor Jeremy Levy, Director of Education and Quality at Health Education North West London, was quoted 'Investing and supporting food growing and gardening as part of our health service is a cost effective way to improve health as well as prevent ill health'. This coverage was one of several articles Growing Health achieved as a result of its press release.

The conference ‘Prescribing Gardening - making green care a natural part of the health service’ on Wednesday 27th May in London was well attended with over 85 people. The conference at the Phoenix School farm in Hammersmith was organised in conjunction with the Hammersmith Community Gardens Association (HCGA) attracted healthcare professionals, some commissioners and community projects. The presentations are available to download from the website

To further support community food growing projects Growing Health published a leaflet entitled ‘Growing Health: the health and wellbeing benefits of food growing’ for groups to use with commissioners and healthcare professionals outlining how the health service can use food growing to deliver health outcomes.

Growing Health also launched its champions scheme to help promote community food growing, for health, across the UK. We are recruiting active champions to support the project’s mission and to be an advocate for the health and wellbeing benefits of community food growing. Further information can be found on the website.


London Food Link
Contact: Sofia Parente unless otherwise stated,  Twitter @londonfoodlink

Cage Free Capital campaign

Following on from the public action last year, Sustain has followed up with all boroughs who do not yet have a Good Egg award and asked them to sign up to the measure. Al least one (Sutton) is applying to the Award ahead of the release of the 2015 Good Food for London report and others (e.g. City of London) are considering it.

In agreement with our partner Compassion in World Farming, we have decided to focus on 20+ top London attractions and ask them to commit to source only cage free eggs for in-house and event catering and sign a Cage Free Pledge. As a secondary ask, we are asking them and their caterers to apply for a Good Egg Award. We estimate that the top 24 London visitor attractions need 100,000 hens to produce the 30 million eggs a year they use in their catering. Only four are publically committed to use cage free eggs so the focus of the campaign will be to ask another 20 to go cage free. Letters have been sent to the 20 attractions and as a result three signed our Cage Free Pledge for the whole or part of their catering. Public activity will start in the week of the 6th of July and will include a media release, social media activity and a call for action asking the British Museum and the Natural History Museum to go cage free. An action page is currently being prepared and will be hosted on the London Food Link page.

Contact Charlotte Jarman

The successful FoodSave project has now finished, and the past three months have been spent gathering evidence, reporting to funders, and evaluating the effectiveness of the project.  Sustain has also been developing a proposal to continue our work on food waste, expanding it beyond London and linking it with the Sustainable Food Cities programme, and is in the process of looking for funding for this work. FoodSave was co-ordinated by the Greater London Authority and funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the London Waste and Recycling Board and The Mayor of London.

Good Food for London 2015 report

A new London Food Link Officer (Sofia Parente) has been in place since mid-April, and will be responsible for managing this year’s report. The measures have been revised and agreed with our partners and communicated to London boroughs in April. This year there are 10 measures in total (of which one is new and four have been revised) to encourage Boroughs to continue to make progress. Sofia updated the London Food Board – Borough Implementation meeting and presented at a meeting of the Healthier High Street working group on the reports progress. Sustain has been encouraging and supporting many Boroughs to improve their scores. Several Boroughs indicated they are working to improve their performance in 2015 (City of London, Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham and Wandsworth) and others are working hard to stay on the top of the league table (e.g. Islington, Greenwich).  


The Jellied Eel
Contact Chris Young,

Features in the May to July issue of the magazine included:

  • Ethical street food enterprises
  • Tackling the capital’s obesity crisis
  • ‘Unfined’ beer
  • Aquaponics
  • Tackling food poverty before and beyond the foodbank

Aiming to find financial security for the magazine, we also launched our Save the Eel! Campaign, urging casual readers to become subscribers, and enterprises to take our advertising.  To help with the former, we secured the first in a package of subscriber discounts on classes from Bread Ahead, Culinary Anthropologist, Meat School and Wildes Cheese.


London Food Poverty programme
Contact Hannah Laurison

  • Nearly 20 boroughs participate in workshop on improving physical access to food
  • London boroughs complete food poverty questionnaire.

The London Food Poverty Campaign is working with boroughs to complete the first ever London-wide food poverty questionnaire. This information will give a comprehensive picture of the actions London’s local authorities are taking to reduce food poverty. The London Food Poverty overview will be presented at City Hall on October 21st.

In June, nearly 20 boroughs attended a workshop on strategies for improving physical access to food. Chaired by Victoria Williams, the workshop shared examples of best practice on mapping food access, engaging with planning decisions and working with local businesses. 


Urban Food Awards
Contact Chris Young

In June we launched The Urban Food Awards 2015, the annual celebration of the best of London’s local larder. London Food Link and The Mayor of London’s Food Team invitation saw around fifty of the capital’s finest small, independent producers and food heroes enter their wares in the following six categories:

  • Londoners’ Loaf: the upper crust of the capital’s Real Bread
  • Heavenly Honey: golden drops from London’s hidden hives of activity
  • Best Banger: a sublime sossie that simply sizzles
  • The Big Smoke’s Big Cheese: none greater
  • Beautiful Brew: the ale to hail as nonpareil
  • London Leaves: hoopiest herbs and sassiest salads

The public vote runs over the summer, followed by final judging by a panel of experts and the awards will be presented at the Urban Food Feast at Borough Market on 24 September.


Real Bread Campaign
Contact Chris Young,

  • Real Bread Week a success
  • Advertising Standards Authority victory
  • Real Bread: The Uprising announced

Real Bread Week (9-15 May) succeeded in its aim of raising the profile for Real Bread and small, independent bakeries everywhere. Media coverage included being featured by The Independent, The Daily Express, The Financial Times, BBC Good Food, Time Out, BBC local radio, and British Baker magazine.

In May, The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigation team recognised: “…that consumers were likely to associate the term Real Bread with the Campaign, and therefore any references to ‘Real Bread’ which related to bread that did not comply with the term as defined by the Campaign had the potential to mislead consumers.”

In May, tickets went on sale for Real Bread: The Uprising. Organised by the Real Bread Campaign and SOAS Food Studies Centre, this conference on 12 September will be the largest UK Real Bread gathering since 2009. Themes will include therapeutic baking, sourdough for beginners and experts, and running a small Real Bread enterprise.

Over the three months, 350 people began or renewed support for our work, while our following on Twitter passed 23,300.


Sustainable Food Cities
Contact Hannah Laurison unless otherwise stated, Twitter: @Foodcities

  • Exeter becomes 40th member of the Sustainable Food Cities network.
  • 30 UK cities sign declaration calling for government action on food poverty

The Sustainable Food Cities network is putting food poverty on the agenda. In the lead up to the general election in May, Sustainable Food Cities members contacted local councillor candidates to urge action on food poverty. Many local food partnerships are working closely with local authorities to tackle food poverty. 30 cities – joined by Trussell Trust, Fareshare, and more than 350 organisations, researchers and concerned individuals have signed our Food Poverty Declaration, calling for action on benefits cuts, sanctions and low wages.

Sustainable Food Cities welcomed its 40th member – Exeter Community Food Network. With significant planning efforts underway in other cities, we expect the network will grow to 50 members by the end of its second year.


Planning Food Cities
Contact Gillian Morgan

  • Planning Food Cities Forum launched and first newsletter distributed
  • Durham has joined the project as they are interested in neighbourhood planning
  • Lancashire districts are making progress in highlighting community food growing in local plan making.

The online toolkit designed to help community organisations use the planning system to support community food growing already has new information added on neighbourhood planning. The forum of planners and community growers enables experiences to be shared; the first newsletter contains updates and top tips from our participating cities.

Download our guide, Planning Sustainable Cities for Community Food Growing


Sustainable Fish Cities
Contact Ruth Westcott,

  • Brakes, the UK’s largest wholesale supplier, committed to serving sustainable fish by signing the Sustainable Fish Cities pledge
  • Manchester becomes the 15th place in the UK aiming to become a sustainable fish city
  • Fish City stars awarded to Liverpool, Plymouth and Durham

Brakes’ sustainable fish pledge was celebrated with an event at London Sealife Centre, and included a photo call of an underwater sustainable fish supper. The news was covered in The Times, Grocer, as well as The Radio Times, and, as well as trade press including Hospitality and Catering News and Cost Sector Catering.


Alliance projects


2015 election
Contact Ben Reynolds

This quarter, the Square Meal group:

  • Sent a letter to recently appointed Ministers George Eustice and Jane Ellison, to push for improvements to the health and sustainability of the food and farming system
  • Began to plan a Ministerial site visit and contribution to Defra’s 25 year plan for food and farming

Sustain compiled a table of party commitments to food and farming policy (as well as a discreet one on fishing policy). This was well received by peers, and received a lot of attention on social media.

This quarter Sustain compiled many of the positions/calls of our members and joint campaigns during the election: Whislt not comprehensive, this provides a useful resource to draw from in responding to Defra’s consultation on their 25 year plan for the future of food and farming, the consultation of which will be launched in July 2015.

Alliance to Save our Antibiotics
Contact Emma Rose

  • Alliance study revealed first findings of MRSA in British pork – study results received national coverage
  • Avaaz/Alliance petition gathered +1m global signatories
  • First meeting with major retailer regarding responsible antibiotic use in supply chains. 

In late 2014, the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics commissioned some testing of British retail pork. The findings were published in peer-reviewed journal Eurosurveillance on 18th June 2015, and revealed that livestock-associated MRSA is now present in the UK pig herd and supply chains. This is the first time the superbug has been discovered in UK pork – a worrying development which we hope will provoke policy action to crack down on antibiotic usage in farming.

The findings were released in tandem with some parallel testing undertaken by the Guardian, which also found MRSA in imported pork samples. The study received national coverage, and prompted significant engagement from consumer organisations and Members of Parliament. In the days following the coverage, 15 Parliamentary Questions were tabled around this issue.

Our partnership with Avaaz is significantly helping to boost public awareness of misuse of antibiotic on-farms. In March 2015 the Alliance worked with Avaaz to create an email and petition ask which was sent to their global network. This secured +1m signatories, +78,000 of which were from the UK. This has now provided us with some tangible figures with which to evidence public concern, and has laid the groundwork for some planned follow-up activity with Avaaz, which will be aimed at influencing policy at EU level.

The Alliance has had a good response from Parliamentarians across the political parties (including meeting with a number of MP’s and with Shadow Defra) who are keen to champion this issue in Westminster.

In June 2015, we secured a meeting with Waitrose – the first time we have actively pursued this topic with a major retailer. On the back of the MRSA findings, we are approaching major retailers with specific ‘asks’ around responsible use of antibiotics within meat supply chains, and to demand a corresponding public commitment to our specific reduction targets.

The Alliance welcomes two new members on board – taking our numbers up to 36 organisations (representing a further +487 organisations). The new members are PAN Germany and Health Care Without Harm Europe.


Eating Better Alliance
Contact Sue Dibb:,

  • The alliance published its survey of over 600 sandwiches and wraps from eight retailers and four high street sandwich chains which found just 17 out of 620 (less than 3%) contained no meat, fish, egg or cheese. The findings of the survey were covered in Food Manufacture, The Grocer and  BBC R4’s You & Yours programme.
  • The alliance held a workshop with its alliance members and others to help determine next year’s activity
  • Letter sent to Jane Ellison MP and Minister for Public Health at the Department of Health, asking for the Eatwell plate to be updated to include recommendations about meat and to request a meeting.


Organic Sector Development
Contact Catherine Fookes:

  • Elections to the OTB Committee resulted in two new Committee members: Clare McDermott Business Development Director at the Soil Association and Adrian Carne Managing Director of Yeo Valley. Anna Rosier from Organix was also re-elected. 
  • The first Wake up to Organic day was held on June 17th to help grow sales of organic through independent stores. 45 stores took part and the event was a great success in encouraging people to try organic
  • Popular blogger Ella (of Deliciously Ella) lent her support to the campaign and posted about how to be thrifty & organic 

Wake up to Organic Campaign Results

  • Over 45 stores participated nationwide
  • 9 pieces of regional coverage appeared, including one local TV feature 
  • 709 tweets using #WakeUpToOrganic – trending in Bristol
  • Overall coverage reach of 6+ million

Deliciously Ella results

The Deliciously Ella Instagram post on how Ella prepared a week's worth of organic food for £59 has reached over 465,000 users, with 6,177 active 'likes' on her posts to date; her Twitter campaign has had over 34 retweets and 68 favourites, reaching over 59,900 people to date. This has helped us drive home the #thriftyorganic message. 


UK Food Group
Contact Jean Blaylock,,

UKFG highlights agroecology for solutions to climate change

The UK Food Group has been building on its long term work and expertise on agroecology to highlight solutions to climate change. An International Forum on Agroecology was held earlier in the year and members who attended fed back at a session that also heard from field programmes in building climate resilience through agroecology. Members met with DFID and DEFRA staff and had a lively but productive exchange challenging DFID’s support for the Global Alliance on Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA) which is greenwash on business as usual.

UN starts process on ‘Connecting smallholders to markets’

Policy choices being made now in developing countries around agricultural markets are vital because they will shape future control of markets. The UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) held a forum on this issue, which the UK Food Group attended. Civil society speakers and others were very successful in opening up discussion beyond a simplistic idea of ‘value chains’ linking small-scale producers to the international markets dominated by TNCs to also look at the local, largely ‘invisible’ markets and economies that small-scale producers already operate in effectively, and how these could be strengthened and built upon. The CFS will now have a year long process of collecting evidence and developing policy recommendations.

Civil society groups again call for an end to support for the G7’s New Alliance

At the G7 summit in Germany, following up on previous civil society statements and letters, 150 civil society organisations signed a statement calling for an end to support for the G7’s New Alliance on Food Security and Nutrition. The New Alliance requires legal and policy changes on land and seeds in African countries that will increase corporate control and disempower local communities and smallholders. The German government has moved away from the New Alliance, although other G7 countries still support it.

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