These three combined reports share the learning from pioneering projects taking part in the Food Supply and Distribution strand of the Making Local Food Work programme. It explores different elements that can form part of buidling a sustainable food hub and looks at some of the challenges and issues that they face. In particular, it looks at issues around supplying food access projects, distributing surplus from allotments; and adding value through catering services.
These three combined reports share the learning from pioneering projects taking part in the Food Supply and Distribution strand of the Making Local Food Work programme. It explores different elements that can form part of buidling a sustainable community food hub and looks at challenges that they face. In particular, it looks at issues around supplying food access projects; distributing surplus from allotments; and adding value through catering services.
Our work explored a more diversified model for a sustainable food hub that involves a number of different elements (like petals on a flower) - some social, some environmental and some commercial that work together to create a vibrant, robust and sustainable social enterprise. For the groups we have worked with, a hub is an intermediary which, by pooling together producers or consumers, adds value to the exchange of goods and promotes the development of a local supply chain. This added value may be gained through economies of scale, social value, educational work or other services. In other words, the pure function of distribution is only one element of a community food hub.
For each of several local community food groups, with ambitions to act as a community food hub, this report explores one element or “petal of the flower” that they have been developing with Sustain's support, on the road towards running a resilient and sustainable community food enterprise. The three reports that make up the combined publication are outlined below.
Adding value through catering services
Local Food Links Ltd is a social enterprise based at the Centre for Local Food in Bridport. The organisation was established in 1999 by West Dorset Food and Land Trust (a registered charity and local community organisation) as a trading subsidiary to run farmers’ markets, operate a café and manage book sales.
It became clear from this work that there was a lack of infrastructure to enable farmers to develop value-added produce. The Centre for Local Food was originally conceived to provide space for community enterprises to make value-added products.
In 2003, the training kitchen provided the infrastructure to allow Local Food Links to develop a scheme delivering chopped fruit to local schools. This was the start of the relationship with local schools that has grown into the £0.5m school meals operation that Local Food Links runs today.
Over time this portfolio of activities might create a model for a social enterprise food hub, based around the catering services and underpinned by a set of secondary activities such as renting managed workspaces, running training courses, and possibly setting up a small market garden and composting facility. It is hoped that this model will be replicable with funds being raised through community share issues.
Distribution of surplus from allotments
OrganicLea is a community-based not-for-profi t food growing co-operative in the Lea Valley in Walthamstow, in East London. It runs a community allotment site where a group of volunteers grow a wide range of organic vegetables, fruit and herbs. Salads and seedlings are grown in a glasshouse plant nursery, which provides regular volunteering opportunities and open days where people can come to learn and join in the work. It also provides training in organic food growing.
From its base at the Hornbeam Centre in Walthamstow, East London, OrganicLea is developing a wide range of food related initiatives. These include a box scheme, a fruit and vegetable stall, a Food Centre and a community café. Surplus from OrganicLea’s growing sites is sold through these schemes supplemented with organic produce from a co-operative of East Anglian growers. OrganicLea also runs a scheme called CropShare, which encourages local people from diverse backgrounds to share the surplus from their allotments, building community connections, a resilient local food supply and confidence in the growers by valuing what they do.
Supplying food access projects
The Food Supply and Distribution strand of Making Local Food Work had two project partners whose main area of activity is to provide deprived communities with access to fresh, healthy food. They also aimed to increase and improve the amount of local food that these projects supply to the communities they serve.
For these projects, price and quality are the over-riding purchasing considerations and they often source their supply from the wholesale market. Their activities and research undertaken as part of the Making Local Food Work programme therefore explored whether a direct supply chain from farmer to project is possible. In particular, this focused on practical ways to reduce costs, working with Community Food Enterprise in Newham, and Food Chain North East in Gateshead. Both of these enterprises were set up to improve access to fresh and healthy food for disadvantaged communities.
Making Local Food Work
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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.