Sustain project reports
January – March 2015

Big Dig
Contact Clare Horrell or Sarah Williams
Twitter @bigdiguk

  • 193 gardens took part across the length and breadth of the UK.
  • Gardens in 28 new places took part and 120 of the gardens were taking part for the very first time.
  • 1,665 volunteers came along and 1,207 of these had not visited the gardens before.

Big Dig day took place on Saturday 21st March 2015. 83% of gardens said they would like to be part of a similar event again and 76% said that the event was useful or very useful. The value of the event was clear from the many positive comments we received such as the following from Jane Ford from Aldernay West Community Garden in Poole “I was really suprised how many turned up to help, even though we were just digging. There was a great atmosphere and camaraderie, the children really wanted to help and even had a game of football at the end. I made new friends and renewed old ones. I would really recommend it. A great day had by all in the community”

At present we do not have funding for future events and a survey of the participating gardens indicated that only 12% in London and 4% nationally would be prepared to pay a fee of £25 to take part in the future although 40% might consider a lower fee. It would appear that at least some level of grant funding will therefore need to be secured if the project is to continue to encourage more people to get involved in community gardening.


Campaign for Better Hospital Food
Contact Alex Jackson
Twitter @BetterNHSfood

  • Campaign nominated for a BBC Radio 4 Food & Farming Award
  • Published three campaign briefings in preparation for re-launch of national campaign
  • Launched two local campaigns in Oxford and Liverpool

We are delighted to have been nominated for a BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Award, in the category for Best Initiative in British Food. The award ceremony will take place at the end of April and will be broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme in May.

In February 2015 we published three briefings, called Keep hospitals cooking, Making more of the money we spend on hospital food and Time to come clean about hospital food. These briefings explain why the government must introduce higher standards for hospital food, set them down in law and get them monitored by an independent body trusted by patients and staff. In conjunction with the briefings, we helped the Daily Mail to run a story, called Try not to choke - but health bosses say we love hospital foodshowing that patient concerns about hospital food are being ignored.

In March 2015 supporter Prue Leith wrote a tub-thumping article for the Guardian denouncing the government’s hospital food plans. This article was substantiated by the findings of our three briefings and syndicated by the Daily Mail the following day.

In March and April 2015 we also launched two local campaigns in Oxford and Liverpool. We have created campaign alliances and started campaigning activity to oppose the closure of hospital kitchens at Oxford Health NHS Trust and to improve the food at Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust as it goes through a process of deciding who will be its next food provider.


Capital Growth 
Contact Eloise Dey, Julie Riehl or Sarah Williams
Twitter @capital_growth

  • Urban Food Routes: Get Connected event held in partnership with Plunkett Foundation at the iconic OXO tower brought 90 people from a diverse range of London-based food enterprises
  • Big Dig 2015 took place this March for the fourth and biggest year yet, with over 100 projects registered in London.
  • Capital Growth helping over 40 network members to Spring into Action at its latest networking event held at food growing venue Roots and Shoots in Kennington.
  • Trafalgar Infant School crowned London’s best at growing unusual vegetables as part of Food Growing Schools ‘Grow Around the World’ competition.

Urban Food Routes: Get Connected

Urban Food Routes partners came together to run an event bigger version of the Get Connected events rub by London Food Link, to help match producers and buyers for Urban Food Fortnight. The event kicked off with presentations from Wildes Cheese and Mazi Mas and saw food growers and producers hook up with eateries and retailers to help shorten and strengthen links in the capital’s local food chain. The Oxo Tower chefs created a menu speckled with urban treats and producer tables were set up giving guests a taster of what’s on offer in the Capital. Follow up work is ongoing to ensure the 90 participants get the most out of the networking event.

Big Dig Day 2015

Big Dig London was bigger than ever this year with 109 gardens registering for the event that encourages local people to get down to their local garden and get their hands dirty, learn something new and hopefully decide to continue to help throughout the growing season. Feedback has been received from 50 gardens, who collectively recorded 841 volunteers attending on the day. Of these, 417 were new volunteers. 80% felt the Big Dig was useful or very useful for their projects and would take part next year. The accounts written by each garden are heartening and reflect how valuable it is to hold a Big Dig day each year:

As a school gardener with a very small number of hours a week, it was wonderful to achieve so much while having so much fun. One of the highlights for me was hearing a child who hasn't had much opportunity to garden say " I love gardening" while leaping up and down!! I feel the Big Dig campaign is like a catalyst getting these events happening which might otherwise not happen and supporting small projects like ours. Thank you. Horniman Primary School Allotment Project

The Big Dig is an invaluable platform for raising awareness of small community gardens such as ours helping us not only find essential manpower (woman-power!) for the physical work but being a valuable tool for ongoing community-engagement. Sunnyside Community Gardens

To complement the day we also piloted a Schools Big Dig between the 16 and 29 March 2015 to match corporate volunteering groups with schools needing help to set up or improve their school food growing space.  The team managed to make five successful matches with excellent feedback from the schools and the corporate volunteers. We are now working on making this service available all year around through the Capital Growth Connect map.

‘Many, many thanks to everyone who contributed -We can't thank you enough! That was a real big dig day! You worked extremely hard! Your bosses should be delighted to have you- your hard work will really pay off here at SGC! Marie Tosti, St Gabriel College 

Spring into Action: Networking event

Spring into Action was held in February to motivate the Capital Growth network for the season ahead. Forty people attended the event held in South London at Roots and Shoots, to see Tim Anderson from Maryon Park gave an inspiring presentation about their Big Dig day. The workshops helped people looking for ideas and advice on how to get more volunteers to their site as well as some practical advice on the early spring garden to do list.  Feedback reflected these aims with projects saying they will ‘incorporate ideas into their volunteering’ programme and run corporate team days and put the ‘practical tips into action’.

Grow Around the World school competition

This quarter Capital Growth and its partner Food Growing Schools London launched and judged the ‘Grow around the world’ category of ‘Grow your own lunch’ competition led by School Food Matters. Judges included Chris Collins ( writer, broadcaster, lecturer, horticultural consultant), Alex Campbell (CEO of Garden Organic) and Julia Minnear (Project Officer for Food Growing Schools London). Over 30 schools entered ‘grow your own lunch’ competition and Trafalgar Infant School was awarded their certificate and prize during the Edible Garden Show at Alexandra Palace.


Children’s Food Campaign
Contact Malcolm Clark
Twitter @childrensfood

  • Hand-in of junk food marketing petition to Downing Street.
  • Agreement from Ofsted to include questions on school food within main guidance to inspectors.
  • Global media coverage and debate on junk food sponsorship stemming from our toothbrush giveaway stunt at launch of rebranded Coca Cola London Eye.

Junk Food Marketing campaign

At the end of March, together with the British Heart Foundation, we handed in a joint petition to the Government calling for the closing of loopholes currently allowing junk food marketing to children. The petition was signed by over 30,000 people and the hand-in to 10 Downing Street was accompanied by a media-friendly photo call outside Parliament.  The issue has been regularly discussed in the media and trade press, ahead of potential announcements in parties’ manifestos.

Policy reviews

CFC has contributed to a number of different policy reviews, including PHE’s review of food marketing and fiscal measures, and a University of Northampton study into the self-regulation model of the advertising industry. We were also part of a roundtable discussion on sugar reduction between industry and public health, organised by the Food and Drink Federation and the British Soft Drinks Association.

School food

A campaign victory to celebrate: The concerted effort by CFC and other organisations allied with the All Party Parliamentary Group on School Food has paid off. Ofsted will include questions on school food within its main guidance to inspectors. An advisory group, including several CFC supporter organisations, is now helping to draft those questions. 

Junk Free Checkouts and Healthy High Streets

We have been keeping a close eye on Tesco and Aldi’s implementation of their new healthy till policies.  In addition, Malcolm has given presentations to the London Obesity Network and a grouping of East London Boroughs to pitch the idea of 'healthy havens' and to look at actions Councils could do to promote healthier high streets.

Children’s Health Fund

CFC ‘hijacked’ the launch of the rebranded Coca Cola London Eye, by handing out toothbrushes to the first visitors as part of a campaign stunt to highlight sugary drinks consumption and the need for a duty.  The action was covered on page three of the Observer, pictures were featured on most newspapers’ websites and Malcolm was interviewed for London TV news programmes as well as for international news channels.  In February we launched the full England-wide data on the impact a sugary drinks duty could have on NHS savings and reduction in cases of ill-health.  This provided a further platform for influential figures, including Professor Susan Jebb (chair of Responsibility Deal Food Network) and Jamie Oliver, to declare their support for a sugary drinks duty and a Children's Health Fund.  The Grocer’s inclusion in its annual Soft Drinks Report of polling and articles about energy drinks and a sugary drinks duty demonstrate the extent to which industry is taking note of CFC’s campaigning.


Growing Health 
Contact Maria Devereux or Sarah Williams
Twitter @growing_health

  • Two successful meetings with the Food Research Collaboration
  • First webinar with Sustainable Food Cities

Growing Health worked with the Food Research Collaboration on two meetings bringing together civil society with academia to improve the UK food system. The first roundtable on Green Care in January brought together 16 organisations that explored the idea of combining social and therapeutic horticulture and animal assisted interventions. Participants agreed on the need to work together to raise the profile of the organisations working in this area and to promote the benefits of their work, which improves the lives of millions of people each year, as well as the need to collate and build on the evidence required for this purpose. The second meeting in March reviewed the tools and metrics for measuring health outcomes in community growing projects. It was agreed that there was a need for new standardised approaches for measuring the outcome and impact of community growing/greencare interventions.

Following the success of previous face to face conferences in London and Bristol we organised a webinar with Sustainable Food Cities for community food growing projects entitled ‘How can we get community food growing ‘prescribed’ by the NHS or funded by public health?’ We had 27 participants and the presentations will be available to download from our website


London Food Link
Contact Sofia Parente
Twitter @londonfoodlink

We are making progress and planning the Good Food for London  survey of boroughs this year. The 2014 Good Food for London report is still gaining interest in Boroughs and, we hope, driving them to partners’ campaigns. London Food Link has provided support to London boroughs looking to improve on their performance in time for the 2015 edition.

We have an updated website for the Caged egg campaign and great plans for the year’s activities. The campaign will call on purchasers of eggs in London to turn their backs on eggs produced under cruel caged methods of production and to make a switch to cage free. As part of these activities we will be calling on London’s most icon landmarks, organisations and businesses to demonstrate strong leadership by making a cage free commitment, which we will use to inspire a broader push to help achieve a cage free capital.   

We are sad to say goodbye to Ross who did such great work over the past years for London Food Link and produced a really effective report not only document brough’s progress but stimulating it too. We wish him well in his next ventures.


Contact Charlotte Jarman or Zoe Chambers
Twitter: @foodsaveLondon

  • The successful FoodSave project draws to a close
  • Around 80 London food businesses have now received help from Sustain to tackle their food waste
  • Surplus food is being diverted to around 50 organisations in and around London, with well over 1000 tonnes of food per year that was being wasted now put to good use

When the FoodSave project officially finished in March 2015, Sustain had completed work with around eighty small and medium-sized London food businesses (including markets, food retail outlets, wholesalers and manufacturers) to help them to address their food waste for the benefit of people and planet.  Twenty-five of these businesses benefitted from a higher level of support, receiving over 12 hours of tailored support from Sustain’s FoodSave team.

Sustain has brokered relationships between these food businesses and around fifty charities, social enterprises and farms in and around London.  In doing so, we have succeeded in diverting well over 1000 tonnes of food per year to good purposes – such as providing food for vulnerable people, turning surplus fruit and vegetables into new products, and supplying sustainable feed for livestock.

The team is now preparing to reflect both on FoodSave’s successes and on the challenges faced by the project, and is considering how Sustain might develop its work on food waste.

FoodSave is 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.


The Jellied Eel Magazine
Contact Chris Young
Twitter @jelliedeelmag

Themes of features in the February to April issue of the magazine included:

  • Urban Food Awards winners
  • Charity and social enterprise cafés
  • Rooftop gardening
  • Edible insects

While Urban Food Routes funding is allowing Sustain to produce the magazine on a part-time basis this year, work resumed in earnest this quarter to make the magazine financially-sustainable beyond 2015. The two key elements of this are securing more advertising and building up the number of subscribers.  To help provide further incentive for people to pay for a magazine they’ve been used to picking up for free, we have begun securing discounts and other offers for subscribers. The first of these include classes at Wildes Cheese, Meat School, and London Food Link’s own Capital Growth training.  A Save the Eel! Campaign will be launched in the May-July issue.


London Food Poverty programme
Contact Abi Ramanan

  • First meeting of London Food Poverty Campaign working group held
  • Criteria agreed for measuring local authority commitment to tackling food poverty in our 2015 report.

The London Food Poverty campaign’s overall aim is to reduce food poverty in low-income communities in London. This will be achieved by increasing Local Authorities knowledge of food poverty in their borough, increasing best practice in Local Authorities’ food policies and working with London boroughs to increase their action to address food poverty.

We have continued to work on producing a metrics evidence base which can be mapped and measured in a format similar to the Good Food for London report to highlight where Local Authorities can have the most impact. We want to raise the profile of the following measures within London boroughs and the wider public:

  • Increasing the uptake of healthy start vouchers and/or increasing the number and diversity of retailers accepting healthy start vouchers
  • Signing up to the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative and achieving Stage 1, Stage 2 or Stage 3 accreditation
  • Increasing uptake of free school meals
  • Paying the London Living Wage, 16 Local Authorities are expected to become LLW employers over the course of the Mayoral term and 11 are currently accredited LLW employers
  • Providing good food for vulnerable older people and adults who require care via meals on wheels services
  • Mapping food access within the borough and weaving this into future planning strategies to combat food desserts

The first London Food Poverty Campaign working group meeting took place on 10 February and convened experts leading on each of the issues above to advise us on refining the way we measure commitment or progress to tackling food poverty from local authorities.

The following day, Abi Ramanan, our campaign officer presented to the London Food Board’s Borough Implementation Group, to inform those representatives of the local authorities about the report, and what it will cover, and the survey to be circulated in order to inform this work. Work on the campaign’s website has begun and will be launched in April 2015.


Real Bread Campaign
Contact: Chris Young
Twitter: @RealBread

  • True Loaf celebrates the many aspects of the rise of Real Bread
  • Support for the Campaign continues to grow
  • Planning ahead for 2015

Work this quarter focussed on preparations for two key Campaign events this year: the seventh annual Real Bread Week (9-15 May) and the Real Bread Uprising on 12 September. In issue 21 of True Loaf, our supporters’ magazine, articles included:  baking in the mountains of Papua New Guinea, Ben Mackinnon swapping E5 Bakehouse’s railway arch in east London for a social enterprise bakery on the edge of an extinct volcano crater in Kenya, Dan Brown honing his skills in Sweden, Henry Mackley chatting to bread hero Peter Cook, Chris Stafferton on gluten free Real Bread, and an overnight loaf receipt from Hilary Cacchio. Over the three months, 400 people began or renewed their support for our work, while we gained more than 900 followers on Twitter, taking the total past 22,500 people.


Sustainable Fish Cities
Contact Ruth Westcott
Twitter @Fishcities

  • All Welsh Hospitals committed to serving sustainable fish, thanks to a pledge by NHS Wales
  • Bournemouth and Poole crowned the world’s first Sustainable Fish City
  • Sustainable Fish Cities campaign secures funding from the Garfield Weston Foundation

The news that NHS Wales signed the Fish Cities pledge has been our biggest media success so far, with coverage in the Guardian, on BBC Wales, as well as in local and trade publications. We have begun to particularly focus on Universities, and have received pledges from Portsmouth University, Leeds University, 15 Cambridge Colleges and Manchester University; the largest higher education institution in the UK. Planning continues for a press launch to celebrate Bournemouth and Poole being the first area to achieve Sustainable Fish City status. This means that the city’s most important and iconic institutions; workplaces, schools, universities, hospitals, restaurants and private and public sector establishments have pledged, and already taken significant steps towards serving, only 100% sustainable fish – a group which together serve over 3.6 million meals per year.  We have three new towns and cities looking to join the Sustainable Fish Cities network – which would bring our total up to 17, just over our 2-year target of 16.


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

  • More than 50 UK and European cities attend annual SFC conference in Bristol
  • First places achieving Sustainable Food City status announced
  • Sustainable Food Cities network urges cities to call for national action on food poverty

The SFC Network announced the first four SFC award winners at the conference in March. Brighton & Hove (silver), Cardiff(bronze), Lambeth (bronze) and Plymouth (bronze) were recognised for their fantastic efforts and achievements in promoting healthy and sustainable food. The winning cities’ award applications are available here.

In the lead up to the general election in May, the SFC network will be urging national action on food poverty. In places where local elections are being held, we will be encouraging local food partnerships to speak to local councillor candidates. We are asking cities to sign a Food Poverty Declaration, calling for action on benefits cuts, sanctions and low wages. The SFC national declaration was inspired by the joint statement on food poverty issued by the Council leaders of Edinburgh and Glasgow in March. We hope that all cities in the SFC network will join us in calling for national action to address the root causes of food poverty.


Planning Food Cities
Contact Gillian Morgan

  • Online toolkit launched to help community planners on food growing
  • Hull, Newcastle and Lancashire supported in weaving food into local plan making.

We have launched an online toolkit designed to help community organisations use the planning system to support community food growing. Communities will be able to find out how to shape the future of their local area to create a more sustainable and local food system. We will illustrate the toolkit with stories from the cities we are supporting. 

Interest by councils and development professionals in creating space for food growing continues, with Hull, Newcastle and Lancashire all actively seeking our advice in their planning process in the last quarter. Download our guide, Planning Sustainable Cities for Community Food Growing


Other food policy developments

2015 Elections
Contact Alex Jackson or Ben Reynolds

The compilation of Sustain project and (where available) member food and farming policy asks for government have been compiled, and are being uploaded onto the Sustain website in April. The Square Meal coalition, of which Sustain is part is considering strategies for the 100 days after the election and how to ensure we get support for a more coherent food and farming strategy and strong leadership from the next government.

Sustain are considering taking a more active role in getting our (and our members) bigger vision for a better food and farming system onto the new government’s agenda, in addition to targeted campaigning on specific issues. We are discussing internally, and with some members, how best to do this over the next 6 months, and how to reinforce this as part of our role, with our (Sustain’s) alliance members.


Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics
Contact Vicki Hird

  • We have secured funding for the alliance so we can proceed with planning campaign activities for the year
  • We have completed final lobbying before the election, including a letter to all parties and a very well attended Westminster event
  • There are indications of some movement on the part of government to take stronger action sooner

Given the seriousness of the issues with new data showing a huge global rise in antibiotic use if unchecked, we are glad that new funding will allow us to work in the UK and Europe to secure stronger action to curb use and a strategy to help the industry set new systems in place. We have produced a great new leaflet and a meeting we held agt the House of Commons had cross party support and a huge turnout from industry, experts and government. Responses from government to our demands would suggest they are willing to go further than previously promised. News of McDonalds cutting some use and antibiotic resistant MRSA in the UK pig herd are all adding up to a significantly heightened awareness of the need to act and the potential for reduction.  


Eating Better Alliance
Contact Sue Dibb

Eating Better continues to build diverse support for its ‘less but better meat’ message and is focused on influencing government, businesses and brining about behaviour change to this effect. They have joined efforts to push the EU Commission into publishing its plan to improve the sustainability of food in Europe, see

At the start of the year they employed a communications officer, Siobhan O’Neill, who has been helping to increase the amount of content on the Eating Better website and social media, responding to, and highlighting, new developments that show the need to reduce consumption of meat and dairy.


Organic Sector Development
Contact Catherine Fookes

  • Campaign re-launched with new adverts in London in April 
  • Our annual briefing event this year "Prosper & Grow with Organic” had record number of attendees 
  • Main message of the briefing from the European experts was: organic should be available to all
  • Our report “A fresh look at the organic consumer” pinpoints exactly who buys organic and why
  • Press coverage included the Grocer & on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours

The new campaign went live in April with adverts appearing across London areas where the highest proportion of organic shoppers live.

At our annual briefing Thor Sorenson, Chief Operating Officer of Netto, presented the story of organic from Denmark.  His key message – “We believe organic food should be affordable and available for all – especially as a discount retailer." He explained that consumer demand exists in Denmark but the success of organic is due to Danish retailers taking strong action to push sales and work with suppliers to create a profitable supply chain.  Netto - a "soft discounter" - has put organic at the heart of their business strategy.  

The key findings of our report, commissioned from Wendy Dunn Associates, “A fresh look at the organic consumer” found:

  • Over a third (35%) of people in the UK, roughly 9.3 million, are buying organic food on a monthly basis
  • 50% of consumers would consider buying more organic food and drink if it were available
  • Nearly half (45%) claiming they will buy more organic food and drink in the future
  • 33% of people have only entered the market within the last two years
  • ‘Limited availability’ is a significant barrier to choosing organic products; the lack of specific types of foods and range/choice where they shop was a big barrier to buying more organic
  • The UK organic consumer is more likely to be:
    • Younger (20-44 years)
    • AB social class
    • Live in a larger household (have children)
    • In work
  • Supermarkets attract many organic food shoppers, but 15-20% of organic food shoppers will not buy any organic food at their usual supermarket 
  • 42% of organic consumers do not have an issue with price

We now plan to use this research to show the potential for growing the organic market in the UK.


UK Food Group
Contact Jean Blaylock

  • Civil society and EU development officials jointly hold trade, climate and health EU officials to account on food security
  • DFID opens up on its agriculture priorities but they are disappointing
  • Livestock process gets underway at the UN

The European Food Security Group of CONCORD (the European network of development NGOs) in which the UK Food Group represents BOND (the UK network of development NGOs) jointly organised a dialogue event with the EU Development Commission. This kind of joint event was a first. The event focussed on the coherence of European policies on trade, climate and health with international development aims from a food perspective.

Agriculture is a neglected area within DFID, but over the past year it has at least done a low-key ‘portfolio review’ of its activities in this area. This is partly as a result of implementation of the EU Food Security Policy Framework which the UK Food Group has been advocating on through the European Food Security Group. DFID declined to consult during the process of the review but agreed to share the outcome with civil society. The UK Food Group jointly organised a session at which DFID staff presented their new priorities. Sadly these are very narrow and disappointing – much work remains to be done.

Livestock has a key impact on issues including food demand, climate change and antimicrobial resistance. The Committee on World Food Security has started a two year process to explore policy around livestock. The UK Food Group’s working group on livestock has contributed to the first stage of this, helping to shape the terms of reference for initial research.


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