I was playing an evening game of Trivial Pursuit (GrowUp? You’re never too old for board games!) when I was struck by a question that came up. It read: “What material, normally present in agriculture, is not used when plants are produced hydroponically?”. Soil! As well as being chuffed to know the answer, I was also amazed that this question appeared in the edition from 1995. It highlights that alternative methods of agricultural production were on the radar over two decades ago, and also the significant progress that has been made since then.
London has long been a hub for innovation and new ideas. The city has some amazing examples of projects and businesses re-thinking the way in which we grow, distribute and manage food in urban environments. Many start-ups, social enterprises and community projects are offering solutions to issues such as food waste, reusing resources and transforming unused urban areas. Ahead of Urban Food Fortnight, we’d like to share some of our favourites, some of whom we’ve worked with and all of whom we admire (and a lot of whom are in East London, our local area!).
RoofEast is home to the GrowUp Box as well as other creative enterprises such as the Rooftop Cinema, Yoga Rise and fantastic foodies Flaming Liberty. Managed by Urban Space Management, who are also responsible for ‘Container City’ at Trinity Buoy Wharf, it is a fantastic example of the possibilities of utilising available, unused space in London that isn’t on the ground – such as roof tops and car parks. When in doubt, look up! @RoofEast
The Food Assembly offer an alternative type of farmer’s market, as customers pre-order online which saves the farmer from harvesting crops unnecessarily which would end up being thrown away. We really like this attitude towards reducing food waste and delivering fresh, locally grown produce to city dwellers.
Farmdrop share our ethos about growing food closer to consumers, as their delivery service allows customers to order fresh fruit and veg direct from the farm! They cut out the long supply chain between farm and fork, all those extra miles and unnecessary links in the chain. So that you get fresher, healthier food of which less will be wasted as it has not sat around in storage and is prepared to order. They support local and small producers and encourage seasonal eating, so support them too! Their organic veg and fruit bundles are particularly handy.
A budding social enterprise, Snact make fruit jerky out of fruit waste that would otherwise have gone to landfill. We’ve been receiving their snacts at the office and can testify that they are delicious! They also employ people who have been affected by or experienced food poverty to sell their product, highlighting that a better food system is also about the people involved.
Food Cycle collect food that would otherwise be thrown away from partnerships with big name supermarkets such as Tesco’s, as well as other retailers and markets. They have hubs across London where they cook up delicious meals, for anyone to enjoy, for free! Their emphasis is on community involvement and providing training and enjoyment for all. We hope to support their Hackney hub with any excess produce from the farm. To get involved, why not become a food hub leader or cook? Details on their website.
Save the Date Café is a member of the Real Junk Food Project, set up in Leeds. This ‘East London egalitarian eatery’ believes in both saving food and money! Having intercepted food from being thrown into landfill they cook up delicious meals on a ‘pay-what-you-feel’ basis. A very welcoming space, this community initiative allows everyone to enjoy great food and promotes fairness. This Friday (18th Sep) they are christening their new kitchen, so head on down! E8 3DP.
Created on the Old Eastern Curve railway which once linked Dalston Junction Station to the goods yard and the North London Line is the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden. A hidden, spacious garden has a pavilion for events, workshops and gatherings. It is purposefully wildlife friendly, as trees and shrubs such as hazel, hawthorn and birch have been planted alongside butterfly bushes, bracken and large raised growing beds for growing produce. Every Tuesday evening this month there are acoustic music nights courtesy of Woodburner; every Thursday there is a ‘Grow-Wild’ herbal drop-in evening to educate people on interesting plants; and every Saturday a volunteer gardening session.
Bankside Open Spaces Trust works with local people in the built up areas of the South Bank near Waterloo and London Bridge to create outdoor spaces for relaxing, gardening and growing. Their project, Edible Bankside, creates new gardens and raised growing beds for residents on social housing estates in SE1 and they have even created a handy map to tell you where the best open spaces are! The GrowUp Box was first opened on The Marlborough Playground exemplifying a creative response to urban space renewal.
London Food Link is an umbrella scheme which organises community-based and city-wide action from lobbying for more nutritious food in schools, to helping companies reduce their food waste and tackling food poverty. They have created a great little map that shows how well your London borough is doing in tackle issues surrounding food, health and nutrition! London Food Link is a valuable a network for Londoners interested in local and sustainable food. They also have a campaign to protect precious marine environments and save fishing livelihood by buying fish from sustainable sources. Sounds right up our street!
Capital Growth is specifically for the food-growing network in London. It supports and connects those growing food in London by offering practical help, training at their Regent’s Park allotment, networking events and even discounts on equipment. Whether at home, on an allotment or as part of a community group, they are a fantastic platform to be a part of; all you have to do is register on their website. Their edible estates map lists where communities and landlords are growing their own. Currently they are organising the Edible Gardens Open Day on Sat 19th Sep 2015, part of Urban Food Fortnight featuring pop-ups, open gardens and eating events!
Fareshare help feed over 158,000 vulnerable people each week, from those who are homeless, or experiencing mental health related issued through to older people and ex-servicemen. A member of the European Federation of Food Banks and The Global FoodBanking Network and partnered with Tesco, they are in a prime position to save thousands of tons of surplus food from going to waste. They don’t provide food directly to individuals, like FoodCycle, but deliver food to over 2,029 local projects and charities across the UK, such as homeless hostels, day centres for older people, women’s refuges and breakfast clubs. They have 20 regional centres across the UK, and if you would like to get involved either look on their website r in London, contact Jere Thomas (email@example.com; 020 7394 2478). Their base is in Blackhorse Rd, South East London, SE8 5HY.
Feedback are an incredible organisation, started by one man campaigning against food waste, Tristram Stuart. They are now active all over the world thanks to community participation and local hubs, and operate under 5 banners: Feeding the 5000, which feeds 5000 people at mass cooking events using waste food; Gleaning Network, which saves vegetables and crops thrown away from farms due to food regulations on sizes and appearance; The Pig Idea, a campaign to lift the EU ban on feeding catering waste, or swill, to pigs; Stop Dumping which investigates farmers and producers forced to dump food due to size, shape and colour specifications and last minute order cancellation, resulting in horrendous amount of waste produce and financial hardship for farmers; and the FSE Network, a network connecting food surplus entrepreneurs with organisations building solutions to food waste. Phew!