It comes as no surprise that cities across the UK are struggling to feed themselves sustainably. Healthy food is often inaccessible. Obesity is on the rise. Food supply chains are long and opaque, hiding unsustainable practises and pushing up prices. People are increasingly disconnected from their food, and many are disengaged from the work necessary to change these food systems.
12 months ago Impact Hub King’s Cross put out a call for teams passionate about creating sustainable food-related businesses that benefit their communities. Seeing a massive need but limited sector-specific support, we developed ‘Feeding the City’, a fully funded year-long programme that supports sustainable food startups. Successful applicants receive bursaries, access to advice from food experts, as well as training from our Impact Hub consultants, network and partners.
We support people with big ideas to make a change in our food systems, and help them develop solutions to their community’s most pressing problems.
Last month, we saw the results of this at a special edition of Food Talks, where we celebrated the culmination of this year’s Feeding the City cohort. Joined by leaders in the ‘good food’ sector, our Feeding the City participants shared how they are creating real positive change in our urban food systems.
Seeding and Sprouting
It starts with a vision. This year, we had the privilege of supporting Proof Bakery, an artisanal bakery that trains and employs refugees in their local Coventry.
Coventry has taken in more Syrian refugees than any other city in the UK, and similar to other such places in the country, many refugees find it difficult to find work and navigate the recruitment culture. They wanted to find a solution to the unemployment and social isolation experienced by refugees in their community. Their idea? Really good bread with a purpose.
“We decided we couldn’t be indifferent to the refugee crisis. We needed to do something” says Chernise Neo.
After nurturing our Feeding the City participant’s initial ideas, we moved on to the growing stage of the programme. Participants attended 5 business training weekend workshops, met with social investors, received grants and worked closely with our team of experts, and took the first steps towards starting their business.
One of our teams was Six Legs Farm, lead by Tilly and Mark Jarvis of Tewkesbury. Their social enterprise breeds crickets for high welfare human consumption to the highest welfare and food safety standards, all while using renewable energy.
This vibrant team started off simply as two people with an idea. After 12 months of hard work, workshops and expert guidance, they have become one of the first UK farms for edible insects, and are playing a role in reducing the ‘ick’ factor of insect protein for the UK consumer.
Founders of Tenement Veg, Colin Mackay, Mark Mcrobbie Hanlon, and Kelly Murray, spoke at our Food Talks, and shared their journey starting of starting an urban garden in Glasgow. Amongst other mentors, their first year of business has been guided by a mentor with buyer knowledge, helping them navigate the daunting world of B2B sales and logistics. Within their short Summer pilot, as most new businesses do, they had their fair share of highs and lows. They unfortunately had to learn about inner city vandalism to their plot; however despite this they managed to secure several regular buyers in Glasgow in merely a few months of beginning.
“Why bother with local food?” asks Colin. “Because it’s nutritious, tasty, and fresh. There are clear mental, physical and spiritual benefits, and it lets us reduces reliance on unsustainable and exploitative processes.”
Food Talks keynote speaker Pamela Warhurst, founder of Incredible Edible and a pioneer in the ‘good food’ movement, had this to say about taking action for better urban food systems:
“We must start believing in our own abilities to change tomorrow. How will you motivate people that are disengaged about making the world more sustainable? I believe the unifying factor that works across all sections of society is food. Stop waiting, start with where you are, and just do it”.
And this year, our programme participants took action. From Kurd and Whey’s initiative which employs and empowers Kurdish women, to Voodoo Burgers who use plant-based food to tackle holiday hunger, we are so proud of everything our teams have accomplished in their communities this year.
Our Feeding the City programme is here to challenge the next generation of teams to disrupt our current food systems. We are here to ask, “What is the future of food in our cities, and how can YOU shape the future with good food?”
Working off the momentum of last year’s accomplishments, we’re excited to open up recruitment for the 2019 cohort of Feeding the City. The final deadline for Feeding the City applications is 27th of January 2019.
We hope to see you at one of 12 Feeding the City Ideation Workshops occurring throughout the UK, to learn more about the programme and to share your solutions for a better future of food!
Many thanks to our Food Talk partners from London Food Link (@londonfoodlink), Food Ethics Council (@foodethicsnews), Sustain (@uksustain), Think Eat Drink (@thinkeatdrink), and Organico (@organico_foods), who have been invaluable in helping us centre discussions about ethical food both in London and beyond.