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Good Food London: From global to local

London will step up to mitigating climate change and restoring nature, making it possible for everyone to be able to eat well, for ever.

Photo of Ben Reynolds
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming, connecting out to communities, enterprises and change-makers, and up to policy-makers

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

London Food Board: good food leaders from diverse personal and professional backgrounds advising the Mayor of London on food policy (government, city) Greater London Authority: regional governance body of London (government, city) Sustainable Food Cities, catalysing action on healthy and sustainable food in 57 towns and cities across the UK (small NGO, under 50 employees) London Food Link, which helped to establish over 2,000 new community food gardens by running the Capital Growth campaign; publishes league tables of London borough progress on action to improve healthy and sustainable food, accessible to all; promotes hundreds of good food entrepreneurs, chefs, artisan bakers, better food traders and nature-friendly beekeepers and horticulturalists; supports initiatives to reduce food waste. (small NGO, under 50 employees) Note: As part of the prize process, we connected with Arup (designers, planners, engineers, architects), and would be excited to link up (large company)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

https://www.sustainweb.org

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 10+ years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Greater London

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United Kingdom

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Greater London, with an area of 1,572 km2

What country is your selected Place located in?

United Kingdom

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

We are Londoners. We are good food citizens, parents, students, teachers, farmers, horticulturalists, beekeepers, chefs, advocates, activists, good food entrepreneurs, market managers, architects, designers, climate strikers, schoolchildren and communicators, stepping up to use food as the most delicious and inspiring way to change the world. 

Sustain runs a powerful alliance that connects out to communities, good food enterprises and change-makers, and up to policy-makers at local and national level. We campaigned for and won the UK’s landmark sugary drinks tax; helped to win a ‘public money for public goods’ approach in UK agriculture policy; secured healthy and sustainable food standards for food served in schools, hospitals and public sector institutions; and have persuaded caterers that serve one billion meals per year to adopt verifiably sustainable fish standards.

Sustain runs the London Food Link network, which established and consulted on the Mayor of London’s food strategy, and now sit on the London Food Board that advises on implementation. We helped establish over 2,000 new community food gardens and now provide training and support to help urban food growers flourish. We publish an annual league table of progress by London’s 33 boroughs on adoption of key interventions to improve the healthiness and sustainability of London’s food; promote hundreds of good food entrepreneurs, chefs, artisan bakers, better food traders and nature-friendly beekeepers and horticulturalists; support initiatives to reduce food waste; and catalyse action to improve household food security for London’s most vulnerable residents.

Sustain co-founded and helps run the pioneering Sustainable Food Cities network, catalysing action on healthy and sustainable food in 57 towns and cities across the UK – including London and several pioneering boroughs. We are also connected to communities of practice working on sustainable food cities across Europe, sharing knowledge and inspiration.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

London is the capital and largest city of the UK, first emerging over 2,000 years ago. It is home to the ‘mother of parliaments’, the palace of the Queen of the Commonwealth, and numerous notable buildings, broadways, boats, bridges and battle grounds. The city’s structures are built on tradition and accumulated wealth, perpetuating both vast riches and stark inequalities.

London has always attracted traders, entrepreneurs, artisans, adventurers, artists, performers, gourmands, chefs and great cuisines. A third of people living in London were born outside the UK, from over 270 nationalities, speaking over 300 languages and sharing the tastes and traditions of food from across the globe. In London, you can always eat well. If you have the money.

The city is set on a great river in the Thames Valley that historically connected Londoners to fertile farms, forests and hunting grounds, as well as to plentiful fisheries and trading routes, via the 80km estuary to the sea. Green spaces persist as much-loved parks and accessible all year round in the mild climate; but much of the farm land and market gardens of the past have been swallowed up by sprawling urban expansion.

As fossil fuels, nitrogen fertilisers and plastics arrived over the past 200 years, and with them the ability to transport intensively produced food much further, the city has concentrated food provision and food power. Most groceries are purchased via just a handful of large supermarket chains, fed by regional distribution centres and airports and a constant flow of trucks. More food orders are now shifting to online ordering, robotised packing and deliveries by zero-hour contract moped riders. Supply chains and profitability are fuelled by highly processed food made from a handful of intensively produced commodity crops like sugar, maize, wheat and cheap chicken that dominate diets and marketing, especially for young people, driving new patterns of disease.

Highly extractive, intensive and carbon-intensive food production is the precarious life support system for modern Londoners. Soil, plastics and sewage flow down to the sea.

Yet good food sense is returning. Over the past 20 years, seeds of good food ideas, planted by pioneering, teachers, markets, artisan food makers and institutions, have started to take root and bear fruit. We have a thriving network of thousands of community food gardens; beehives on hundreds of London’s rooftops; an emerging network of Better Food Trader social enterprises and Real Bread bakers; inspiring food waste initiatives; schools serving healthy meals; and local authorities banning junk food advertising and taking systematic action to tackle the root causes of food poverty.

London’s good food movement is both poignant and beautiful, awoken by the triple desperations of modern hunger, climate change and loss of nature; yet using good food to nurture better livelihoods for food producers, convivial human relationships and active food citizenship.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

1572

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

8900000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Environment: London has an ecological footprint of 48,868,000 global hectares; a global water footprint of 10 billion cubic metres per year; and we waste a third of our food. More positively, there is an emerging community-led agrarian revolution. Over 3,000 biodiverse community food growing gardens have been established, with over 200,000 Londoners involved in food gardens, embedded in city-wide planning policy. 

Diet: Dietary patterns in London are characteristic of modern economies – damaging to health and the climate – high in animal-derived and highly processed foods; low in fresh and healthy fruit, vegetables, nuts and pulses; with the familiar pattern of diet-related health conditions to match. There is a fight-back emerging against junk food, with a tax on sugary drinks raising money for children’s health promotion; Sugar Smart campaigns; and a ban on junk food advertising on London’s public transport, now being picked up by local boroughs for their own estates.

Economics and Technology: Ten per cent of jobs in London are in the food sector, many likely to be replaced by technology and robotisation in retail, manufacturing and automated distribution. London’s food system is disproportionately dependent on ‘just in time’ ordering and imported food, with questionable resilience to food system shocks. There is an exponential rise in take-away and packaged food, ordered by phone and swathed in plastic, of questionable nutritional value. There is also growing interest in appropriate-scale and accessible technology to help values-based food trading, community enterprise, food waste minimisation and low-impact food growing.

Culture: This is a city of diverse food cultures, with imminent post-Brexit challenges to recruit and retain sufficient food workers, largely staffed by migrants. It is also a city of extremes. Over 2.3 million Londoners live in poverty; 400,000 of them children; with a third of adults having skipped meals to save money so their children can eat; whilst some of the richest city workers and business people feast in some of the most diverse, exciting and expensive restaurants in the world.

Policy: A Mayoral London Food Strategy is building the policy, governance, institutional and business allies, grassroots movement and critical mass for systemic change:

  • 16 boroughs are now helping Londoners participate in community food growing.
  • 23 boroughs are improving food education and culture in schools, with 19 adopting accredited healthy and sustainable school food standards.
  • 22 boroughs are helping local food outlets to serve healthier food; 9 running Sugar Smart campaigns.
  • 27 boroughs are promoting uptake of fruit and veg vouchers for pregnant women and children on a low-income. 
  • 30 boroughs are accredited for promoting breastfeeding.
  • 27 boroughs are taking at least one significant action to serve verifiably sustainable fish.
  • 8 boroughs have established a food partnership with local authority and community involvement.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

We take an integrated approach, targeting settings where decisive action is possible to achieve improvements for health, sustainability, equalities and a better food culture; with good food governance at household, community, borough and city level. Our food system vision:

  • Helps ensure all Londoners can eat well at home and tackle household food insecurity

Recognising that the root causes of household food insecurity are low income and personal crisis; and this cannot be addressed simplistically by emergency food aid. Systemic approaches look at maximising household income:  an adequate social safety net; living wages and controlled everyday household costs. Interventions such as breakfast clubs, free school meals and holiday hunger programmes will have multiple social, health, educational and cultural benefits.

  • Supports good food businesses to improve London’s food environment 

Supporting values-driven food businesses and social enterprises, especially those serving disadvantaged communities with local jobs and affordable healthy and sustainably produced food. Systemic approaches look at schemes such as Better Food Traders community enterprises, scaling up supply and demand for organically farmed food, especially fruit and veg, in a trading system that balances fair reward for producers, affordable prices and fair trading principles, using appropriate-scale technology to facilitate trading connections and sustainable distribution.

  • Works with public sector partners to improve food procurement for health and sustainability

Leadership by public sector food procurers to support fresh, healthy and agro-ecologically food in schools, hospitals and care settings; with dynamic procurement contracts flexible to seasonal supply, with values-led facilitation for sustainable farmers and fishers and smaller enterprises.

  • Uses good food to help give Londoners the best possible start to life, in pregnancy and childhood

Treating each moment of parental engagement, via professionals, institutions and cultural settings, as an opportunity to cultivate good food culture in childhood, with support for pregnant and nursing mothers; food standards and family learning opportunities in nurseries, children’s centres and schools; subsidised healthy food and cookery skills; and protection from marketing of unhealthy food and beverages.

  • Promotes the multiple benefits of food growing for individuals and communities, in community gardening and in urban and peri-urban farming

Making every neighbourhood welcoming, productive, biodiverse and beautiful; and building the pool of talented new entrants for horticultural enterprise. 

  • Reduces the environmental impact of our food system by making it more efficient, more sustainable and less wasteful

Reforming food trading models, especially to support fair dealing for farmers, agro-ecological and peri-urban horticulture closer to the point of consumption, to maximise ecological and financial value and minimise waste.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

We want everyone to be able to eat well, for ever. In our food systems vision:

Everybody enjoys the legal Right to Food. Everyday hunger and emergency food aid are things of the past due to living wages, control of household costs, and fresh food availability in all neighbourhoods. Money saved through replacing workers with technology and automation is fairly distributed to help people lead lives with more time for making and sharing good food.

London’s businesses and institutions conscientiously sell and promote much more plant-based and agro-ecologically produced food – meeting consumer expectations and new statutory compliance, celebrated by influential chefs and on social media. Food outlets sell much less meat and dairy and routinely publish data on this as part of city-wide and public sector metrics for climate- and nature-friendly food. What livestock products these outlets do buy come from agro-ecological and pasture-based farming; fish from verifiably sustainable sources. 

Food no longer goes to waste, enabled by fiscal incentives, reporting requirements and cooperative partnership-based contracts between farmers and retailers, foodservice and manufacturers. 

Childhood becomes a time of good food culture and nutritional sanctity. Every new mother and baby receives the care and support they need to breastfeed; as well as weaning onto fresh and nutritious food establishing good eating habits for life. Nutritious meals and good food education are the norm in nurseries and schools, free from commercial marketing of junk food and sugary drinks.

All neighbourhoods are inherently health-promoting, so good food is the easiest choice. Every neighbourhood has a welcoming community food growing garden run by local people, providing space for fruit and veg, tranquillity, education and community meals; connected up by green corridors for pollinators to thrive. Food growing becomes a normal and beloved part of every place. 

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Food is vital to sustain life, but food is also much more than just a meal. It connects everything we do as a society, it affects the environment, it drives our economy, affects our health and it is a central part of our cultural life.

How our food system works and what Londoners eat is crucial in helping London to be a better place to live, work and visit. Our food system is complex and remarkable and while it is full of benefits, there are also many challenges; child obesity is rising, Londoners’ reliance on charitable foodbanks is increasing and global greenhouse gas emissions are undermining the ability of places all over the world to secure a reliable supply of healthy food.

We want to provide the framework to help all Londoners to play their part in transforming our diets and food system to meet the challenges that lie ahead. Everyone in London can do something to improve food – at home, at work, in businesses, institutions and through local policies.

Our vision is for everyone to be a food change-maker. Our vision sets out the path to deliver and support change, focusing on the role of our great city. Large cities have the chance to transform food systems for the benefit of citizens, the environment and resilience – also playing a catalysing and economic role in restoring nature and the resilience of soil, sea and systems that that feed us through the food we buy and the standards we set.

London is recognised for its leadership in international food networks. In 2017, the Greater London Authority and the London Food Board received a Silver Award from the Sustainable Food Cities Network. We share inspiration and friendly competition with cities across the world as part of the C40 Cities Food System Network and the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact. We use these networks to help us learn more all the time, to help London be a leader in green food jobs, skills and education.

We will work for a brighter future for all Londoners, with healthier lives, better jobs, thriving producers, a cleaner environment and more enjoyable social connections. We will continue to learn, and to make food better for all Londoners. Good Food for London is a call to action. Let’s work together to show what good food can do. We will do so by focusing principally on transformation in six settings, where there are natural constituencies of practitioners to engage.

GOOD FOOD AT HOME, AND REDUCING FOOD INSECURITY: What we cook and eat at home has a big impact on our health and wellbeing. Yet many Londoners are not able to eat well at home. Poverty and inequality play a part in this, so we must address the causes of poverty and inequality. This includes promoting local Food Poverty Action Plans, living wages, school food programmes, social meals, sharing schemes and access to land for food growing. A generous city that tackles household food insecurity and allows no one to go hungry.

GOOD FOOD ECONOMY, SHOPPING, AND EATING OUT: Many Londoners find it hard to find healthy food when eating out and shopping. We will promote the role that food can play in making streets healthy places, with more healthy food options and good food businesses, plus incentives for promoting climate-friendly healthy food and restrictions on promotion of unhealthy processed foods. The food sector is also a great route to work and skills development, hence we will promote more ways for entrepreneurs to enter the sector – from street food through to community growing, and a range of schemes to promote values-driven food businesses and social enterprises.

GOOD FOOD IN COMMUNITY SETTINGS AND PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS: Many Londoners spend a lot of time in community settings. Food can be a great way of bringing people together and reducing social isolation. Institutions like the GLA, councils, public services, schools, hospitals, cultural and tourist attractions and health and social care providers buy and serve food to Londoners. As such, all have a role to play in leading by example in showing people what good food is. Through better food procurement, small businesses and local producers can help people eat healthier food with better animal welfare and environmental standards. This will be good for London’s economy too.

GOOD FOOD FOR PREGNANCY AND CHILDHOOD: Good food is an essential part of health and wellbeing at all stages of life. It can help reduce the health inequalities between London’s communities. London has the highest level of child obesity in England. Children growing up in the poorest parts of the city are twice as likely to leave primary school obese as their peers in the richest areas. The food environment that surrounds London’s children makes this issue worse. We need to reverse this trend in child obesity. We will reduce children’s exposure to junk food including by restricting advertising and helping boroughs to produce Good Food Retail Plans. We will help cooks, cafés and takeaways to improve the food they serve by making simple and healthy changes through respected schemes such as the Sustainable Restaurant Association and Healthier Catering Commitment. Breastfeeding has a huge number of benefits for both babies and mothers, but breastfeeding rates in London are low. We recognise that normalising breastfeeding is a key way to increase breastfeeding rates here. The food children eat in early years settings and at school can help them develop healthy food habits for life. We will improve London children’s health and support healthier habits through his Healthy Schools London and Healthy Early Years London programmes.

GOOD FOOD GROWING, COMMUNITY GARDENS AND URBAN FARMING: In the last decade, London has become host to an increasing number of food growing spaces, supported by Sustain’s Capital Growth programme and the Mayor of London. As a result, tens of thousands more people than ever now engage with them. We cannot overstate how important food growing in community gardens, allotments, schools, urban farms and other spaces in London is. It has so many benefits. Food growing is a great way to bring communities together. It can also help individuals make new friends and feel less isolated, make areas safer, and boost people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. Urban food growing has many environmental benefits too. This includes adding to London’s green infrastructure and providing habitat for London’s biodiversity. More food growing will also help us take decisive steps to London becoming a National Park City. Urban farming and food growing projects also help to create social enterprises. This boosts local economies and provides jobs, volunteering opportunities, training and apprenticeships. The Good Food for London partnership will work with local councils, private sector partners and food growing charities to support urban farming. He will help Londoners access community gardens to realise the many benefits of food growing for both communities and individuals.

GOOD FOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: What we eat, how we produce it, consume it and dispose of it, has huge impacts on the environment. It is estimated that food and drink accounts for almost 10 per cent of London’s total consumption-based Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. This is mainly because of the type of food eaten and the way it is farmed. This also has a big impact on our soils, biodiversity, and water quality. With London’s population still rising, it is vital that we adapt the food system and our diets to mitigate the impacts of this increase. We must radically reduce damaging meat and dairy consumption; eliminate food waste and ensure that the city’s food money is spent in ways that support agro-ecological farming. The way the food system works also has a major influence on London’s air quality. We must work to achieve a more efficient and consolidated transport network around food supply and food shopping. The food system is complex and vulnerable. Our food supply depends on many sources and processes. We need to work together across the food system to ensure that our food system is resilient and sustainable – feeding everyone now and for generations to come.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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Photo of Stephanie Robson
Team

Dear fellow food visionaries

There are several of us who have chosen London as the place for our vision for 2050. Inspired by all the submissions, we would love to invite all fellow London teams we are aware off (see list below) for show and tell evening. Thus we would like to invite you to a get together with each team presenting their vision in 5 mins pecha kucha style and discussions / drinks afterwards.

Let us know if you would be up for that and had time - we would love to welcome you on Thursday 27/02/2020 from 18:00- 19:30 (and onwards in the pub for those who would like to continue the conversations). Please email stephanie.robson@arup.com for further details.

If you are aware of any other London based projects, would you be able to point us in their direction as we would like to invite them too!

• Powdies: Waste to Nutrition for All
• Mimica’s Food System Vision for Hackney
• Plantville
• Good Food London: From global to local
• The Orchard Project
• Upsetting the apple cart: Birth of a human-centered food system

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