More than 50 local food activists assembled at Open Project Night on 22 May to hear from 4 local food enterprises and think how we can supply the gaps and challenges so that we can move towards a local food system that can supply real local needs and begin to compete with the corporate take-over of our food. We then broke in to 4 groups to discuss the issues raised under the headings:
- Staying in Business, including financial sustainability, scaling up, staff and skills, finding customers and producers
- Access to land, and buildings including community buildings, affordable work-space, and shops.
People – getting more volunteers, looking after them.
- Connecting projects and people.
The outputs and actions from these discussions are below. If you have any corrections or additional information that should be posted please email firstname.lastname@example.org. For a detailed report on the presentations which kicked off this discussion, which includes an inspiring list of some of our local ASSETS go to Local Food is the Business presentations. We also had a WANTS and OFFERS board:
- Steering group members for the realisation phase of Brixton City Farm contact AdrianWorrall@gmail.com
- Organic waste for an anaerobic digester at Loughborough Junction Works 1 tonne p day. email@example.com
- Comms and PR support to amplify Incredible Edible Lambeth contact Sue Sheehan, firstname.lastname@example.org
- and the same for Community Food Growers Network contact Zahra@CFGN.org.uk
- Steering group members eg treasure for Glengall Wharf (community) Gardens. email@example.com
- Help to populate Incredible Edible Map and some tech help. contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Lots of organic liquid fertiliser (1 tonne p day, if the AD project at LJWorks goes ahead) email@example.com
- Urban Growth – Learning Gardens can offer support (infrastructure – raised beds, compost, seeds.. and supported food growing sessions) to Lambeth Housing Estates contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Flexible and affordable access to professional kitchen space (coming next year!) contact email@example.com
The list of other local food projects represented at the event is at the bottom of this post.
Staying in Business,
including financial sustainability, scaling up, staff and skills, finding customers and producers
- Utilising project users
- offer them qualifications, certificates
- to assess and publicise community benefits (needs work on social impact assessment.)
- do a skills audit and advertise for volunteers with skills you haven’t got. Lambeth Volunteer Bureau?
- Use local resources and develop new if they don’t exist
- Brixton Pound community give-back scheme
- Skills exchange – in development
- Marketing and awareness raising of local projects – enhance Incredible Edible Lambeth’s offering. Build the brand and raise its visibility.
- Collaborate, don’t compete
- Grouping for scale to deliver IEL’s connecting, collaborating and outreach objectives. Also economies of scale (where appropriate), reducing dublication, increase sharing or resources and expertise…
- a reliable supply of produce would lead to more customers and more business options
- Types of finance
- Funding priorities are dictating the direction of the business. This can be a pro and a con.
- There may be different types of finance appropriate for different stages of an enterprise
- Grants may be appropriate at start-up but business should seek to become self supporting where possible from income.
- Corporate grants may be available. Loughborough Junction has gained from corporate support.
- Altruistic investors. Look for community investors (not just of money). TTB is working on this with Brixton Pound, Brixton Fund and Bank of Lambeth project.
- For-profit? Not-for-profit/social enterprise? Cooperative? Find the appropriate form.
- Target council funding/budgets for delivering social/community benefits
- + show how project meets policy outcomes to become eligible as ‘service deliverers’. Design activities to meet fundable policy outcomes.
Actions and next achievable steps.
- Identify flexible funding models – grants > profit
- Make better use of existing knowledge and skills – start initiative to share among projects
- Measure and evaluate all the impacts and publicise the Unique Selling Points of projects. Use to lever funding and service delivery income.
- Scale up by collaborating. Learn from other local and national projects.
Access to land, and buildings
including community buildings, affordable work-space, kitchens and shops including ‘meanwhile space’.
- Land and existing growing projects and spaces
- support and enhance Incredible Edible Lambeth’s existing mapping project. Publicise the finished project as an engagement tool.
- Community spaces
- Conduct an inventory of local (underused) community spaces – what would be required to bring them into use.
- Map this against areas of deprivation.
- Use it to campaign to Unlock Community Spaces perhaps on Change.org or similar eg 38degrees
- Map community kitchens (already in progress – Myatt’s Fields Food Project) (see inventory above)Shared kitchens organised by a Cooks Coop could generate employment for a manager as well as making available underused kitchens
- Support community meals initiatives using kitchens attached to community spaces. See Brixton Soup, Brixton People’s Kitchen, the Community Shop.
- Affordable enterprise spaces
- Look at accessing underused garages especially under social housing as enterprise space for residents
- Piggy-back this on defend housing campaigns as a positive spin. And the library campaigns.
- Establish community hubs outside Brixton (??)
- Selling space
- Community markets with cheap stalls for local traders. Could rotate days around different locations. Engage with It’s Your Local Market, Brixton Market Traders’ Federation ( and look at Brixton Station Road markets’ offer).
- Make commercial space (and big local businesses) work for the community
Actions and next achievable steps.
- Inventory and map under-used community spaces (and kitchens) and work/campaign to get them into use. [Tori to ask about existing work on this by Naybur and to discuss at upcoming VCHF meeting]
- Explore kitchen share idea and forming a ‘cooks coop’ of potential users to organise it.
- Put pressure on (maybe explore partnership with?) commercial operators in Brixton to provide use of their space and support use of other spaces. (inc sponsorship for Open Project Nights)
People – getting and keeping volunteers.
- Connecting and outreach
- Use IEL website and networks and brands we already have!
- A single place to access volunteering opportunities (IEL site?)
- A facebook group where anyone can post. (The IEL facebook?)
- Capacity Building
- Share volunteer management
- Training sessions for volunteers to become ‘lead volunteers’.
- (Paid?) volunteer management training.
- Create Brixton Community Map – (it exists, established years ago by TTB – needs updating and populating)
- Design a marketing/publicity campaign.
Actions and next achievable steps
- Join the Training for Food Growers Working Group meetups, irregular Mondays at Open Project Nights: next one this coming Monday 5th June.
- Regular meetups for projects (at OPN) with at least one delegate from each project (Loughborough Farm has one ready to commit) to work on collaboration projects such as:
- a volunteer training course
- developing a volunteer ‘starter form’ to find out skills, what they think they might like to do, achieve, get out of the project etc.
- share volunteer expertise. Need to know what skills we have first and whether volunteer would make that skill available to other projects. Skills audit?
- Work together to get more and better corporate volunteering – not just one-off paint a fence style but longer term connection with projects.
Connecting projects and people
It should be noted that Incredible Edible Lambeth already exists as the network for food-growing projects in Lambeth and the Lambeth Food Partnership is working on coordinating high-level and policy work on food in Lambeth including ultimately moving towards Sustainable Food City Gold status.
There are incredibly dedicated people supporting both these networks but they can suffer from fatigue, lack of time, and difficulties engaging both food projects and the wider community. More support for their existing work would solve many of the issues identified elsewhere.
(*** this discussion still has to be written up in detail – any volunteers who were there please send a summary to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Actions and next achievable steps
- Organise an open day for projects to connect. (Gemma)
- Explore Project Dirt. How can we leverage it (Joe)
Other local food projects who participated in the event included:
- Little Cat Cafe in Myatt’s Fields Park
- Brixton Soup Kitchen?
- Brixton Food Assembly
- Brixton People’s Kitchen?
- Brixton Pound Cafe
- Brixton City Farm
- Brixton People’s Fridge
- Incredible Edible Lambeth/Lambeth Food Partnership
- Social Landscapes: Local Growing Training Network.
- Father Nature
- Brixton Energy for anaerobic digestion at Loughbrough Works
- Community Food Growers Network
- The Community Shop and FarmCity
- Urban Growth Learning Gardens
- Streatham Herb Farm and Rootcraft
- Mushroom farm in Kennington
- Transition Town Crystal Palace Saturday Food Market/Patchwork Farm
- Transition Town Tooting – Vegetanuary and Community Garden
- Mission Kitchen
- Oasis Adventure
- Terrie-Ann Scott
- several current trainees on the CREATE LAMBETH food business programme