Feeding the City Start Up
7 January 2019 - kingscross

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.

FTC timeline

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.

We saw the results of this at a special edition of Food Talks, where we celebrated the culmination of the 2019 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

Many people choose dairy-free milk alternatives for environmental reasons – but most dairy-free milks are manufactured and packaged in a way that isn’t environmentally friendly. 

Joshua Coppersmith-Heaven, of our 2019 cohort, wanted to fill this gap. Using tiger nuts – a sustainable, low-impact plant with the potential to be grown in the UK – he created Tigermylk. He uses glass bottles and metal caps that can be washed and reused, and limits the carbon footprint by operating locally.

Growing demand meant that Joshua needed to make the leap from home production to a commercial kitchen:

The programme has helped massively. The support has allowed me to experiment, develop and take steps I simply wouldn’t have otherwise taken.  […] I’ve received support and advice on how to make realistic progress.” 

GROWING

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.

Safiya Robinson experienced the world of veganism to be an exclusive one. While veganism is  a healthy movement for people and planet, Black people are often not given space in this growing community.  As a response, she launched Sisterwoman Vegan: an organisation that provides food to mindful, impactful organisations, and creates events that build a meaningful community. 

Over the course of the programme, Sisterwoman Vegan has built up an impressive following. She has supplied plant-based food to clients from Impact Hub King’s Cross, all the way to British grime artist JME. 

“The programme has been pivotal in the professional development of Sisterwoman Vegan. It helped me to tailor it to the London market, really understand my customer and what my social goals were.

Founders of The Cooking Club, Karen Castle and Clare Cousins, provide meal kits and classes specially designed for people with disabilities, and offers work experience in preparing meal kits. The kits include the ingredients to enable people to make healthy meals easily: 

“Having a business-minded outsider look at what we are doing and pull apart the things that we had been having problems with has been so useful.”

HARVESTING

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 Kina Mama’s which offers catering and home delivery of healthy organic food to new mums which subsidises free community events that target low income families and isolated mothers to Blackbird Bread, an environmentally sustainable, ethical bakery that works within the community providing training to help people get into employment, 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 2020 cohort of Feeding the City. The final deadline for Feeding the City applications is 16th of February 2020.

We hope to see you at one of 7 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!

Do you have an existing sustainable food business that is ready to scale? Check out Feeding the City: Accelerate, our 6 month growth programme designed to help you overcome the key challenges that sustainable food businesses face when they come to scale.

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.

By ALISA GRAHAM BROWN