From growing your own and sharing it to elegant surplus food solutions, here’s our round up of ten game-changing food initiatives to get behind this year.
Food has a habit of shaping new communities. Often, these communities have a common goal: to make some part of the world – whether it’s East Africa or a vegetable plot in a local pub garden – a better place. London’s flooded with initiatives to get behind and local communities to involve yourself in. So, read on if you like the idea of food’s power in the context of the greater good, or just fancy making your own little patch of London a more food-friendly (ergo a more people-friendly) place.
1. London Grows
That nature offers solace from the humdrum and sedentary ways of everyday life is a romantic and Wordsworthian idea. But a good one. London Grows, and initiative by Capital Growth and funded by the Mayor of London, encourages Londoners to get out and about, with the aim of re-establishing local gardens as communal hubs. They’re helping run hundreds of fruit, vegetable, and herb gardens around the capital with which to do it. Learning to grow food while meeting similarly minded people? Sounds like our cup of tea.
2. Student Food Co-ops
Food co-ops are a good way for local residents to get their hands on produce from surrounding farms, where the farmers can directly support the community, and visa versa. Students for Cooperation and Sustain’s own scheme are more specifically aimed at bringing together college students, postgraduates, and undergraduates – i.e., those not as embedded in the neighbourhood as residents – who share an interest in obtaining local, fresh produce. To start up a new group, all that’s needed is a few relatively entrepreneurial students.
3. People’s Fridge Brixton
Brixton is one of London’s most progressive areas when it comes to the part food plays in local communities: The People’s Fridge, known affectionately as Freddie The Fridge, is just one example of several social projects carried out by Impact Hub Brixton and Pop Brixton. Their aim? To provide a place for locals and businesses to deposit their surplus food and make the food available, for free, to anyone who wants it.
4. The Orchard Project
Britain’s orchards have been in a state of rapid decline since the ‘50s. But, through small communities around UK towns and cities, The Orchard Project are hoping to turn that around. They train a handful of community leaders – could be you or your neighbour – in nurturing a communal orchard, so that they can pass on that knowledge to anyone interested in pitching in. It’s a great way to bring people together through the medium of food. And a lot more manageable than allotments…
5. Auction Against Hunger
Hunger and malnutrition is perhaps the biggest hazard to children in less developed countries. With the help of the talents of some of the UK’s best chefs, Auction Against Hunger appeals to the hearts and stomachs of Londoners to try and address that. Last year’s main event, hosted by Borough Market, brought together the likes of Anna Hansen, Neil Rankin, Pascal Aussignac, and Tom Hunt to put on a menu that’d make even a medieval monarch blush.
6. Abundance Network
We import around 6 million tons of fruit and veg every year (the majority of what we consume), yet the Abundance Network reckons we could be self sufficient on apples and pears if we all took up giving and sharing them locally. Remember your mum cooking that apple crumble with the Bramleys from your neighbour’s tree? Sharing garden-grown produce is what the Abundance Network is all about – just on a slightly bigger scale.
7. Incredible Edible
What started ten years ago as a small set up aimed at re-localising the food system has since expanded to more than 100 groups up and down the country, with four currently in London. But, unlike most collections of people passionate about their food, how these groups have come to fruition is more about how creative and resourceful they are. Some involve sowing seeds in a pub garden or lay-by, while others look at the importance of incorporating small-scale agriculture into the school curriculum.
8. The People’s Kitchen
The concept of The People’s Kitchen is simple: to turn waste and surplus food otherwise fit for eating into free, delicious meals for all. Volunteers – i.e. you and me – can turn up and wash, peel, chop and cook to help put on a community feast, while diners pay forward whatever donation they like to the local assets that need it. Look out for People’s Kitchens in Brixton and Dalston.
That predicament when the recipe says you need six onions for the soup, but you only have four. That situation when the milk spoils in a few days but you’re off on holiday tomorrow. Sound familiar at all? Through its app, OLIO helps you call on your neighbours to make use of each other’s surplus food, rather than wasting it.
10. City Farms
Spitalfields City Farm is home to goats, chickens, donkeys, sheep, and rabbits. All of which need a bit of tender loving care. And mucking out. This is where you could come in – the farm, like others around the capital, was founded by volunteers, and relies on similarly minded people to get their hands dirty every now and then. Similar opportunities can be found at Vauxhall and Hackney city farms, among others.