Food and Community

Uplifting stories

food community Saleema Imam

Saleema Imam

Though the corona virus lockdown has had many negative affects on life, there have been some positive reactions e.g. the increase in some local food initiatives. Social eating groups have had to develop new ways to ensure people could access meals as well as maintain social contact.

For the most part, these projects are based in neighbourhood venues such as children’s centres, community centres and churches. These services extend food choice, accessibility and availability and operate as spaces where the links between people, communities, projects and services are strengthened through food sharing.

In locations like Nottingham and Sheffield, social eating initiatives have emerged to counter isolation and food insecurity and are used by a variety of customers from students to families and elders In response to the coronavirus lockdown, community food groups partnered with local authorities to respond to emergency food aid requests.

Groups like the Nottingham Social Eating Network and Sheffield’s FoodHall Project showcased their model of meal provision to a new range of customers. Groups like Mutual Aid used the staff and volunteers at Pitsmoor Adventure Playground and other local venues, to pack and deliver food boxes to those who could no longer visit the sites.

Fran Belbin from Pitsmoor Adventure Playground said “ We made and delivered over 6000 healthy food hampers and put on scores of activities for children and young people in North East Sheffield over the summer holidays. We reached more than 3,500 children with the hampers alone and got loads of lovely feedback from happy children, parents and carers! Thanks to so many people .“

During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic Foodhall, Sheffield’s multi-award winning community kitchen and public dining space, fed over 12,000 people in the City, and volunteers gave over 7,000 hours of their time to the emergency food response. Instead of shutting down during the early stages of lockdown, these networks redesigned their services to produce and distribute thousands of meals. Volunteers packaged meals for collection and delivery. The usual food hygiene rules were strengthened to mitigate the risks of the pandemic.

Social enterprise Pulp Friction, based in Nottingham, teamed up with a local pub to deliver a hot meal service during lockdown. The enterprise now intends to trial a new “heat and eat” social eating service where meals are made offsite, heated and sold in larger venues which may not have adequate storage or kitchen facilities to run a conventional meal service, but where there is adequate space to serve crowds safely.

The social eating model has the potential to help us create a new kind of food infrastructure. Imagine a national network of community eateries, or social eating spaces, where you could go for a once-a-week social meal.

These meals would have limited choice but all freshly cooked with supermarket surpluses and locally grown produce. The result would be savings on fuel and water, as well as being a more sustainable use of food resources..

Pitsmoor Adventure Playground left Pitsmoor Adventure Playground right
Pitsmoor Adventure Playground - feeding hungry kids!

‘Social Eating: inside the supermarket surplus initiatives that could change the way we eat. A research paper by Marsha Smith of Nottingham University and David Bek of Coventry University. Marsha Smith's blog The Conversation - ask for their newsletter.

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