December 2, 2019, by Lexi Earl

Nottingham Good Food Partnership: making food accessible to all in Nottingham

Nottingham Good Food Partnership is a not for profit organisation committed to transforming our local food system, to make it fit for purpose for the next generation. NGFP is a member of the international network of Sustainable Food Cities and represents over 60 organisations, all committed to realising a sustainable food future. It is the lead organisation for all things local food.We spoke to Penney Poyzer, NGFP chair, and Shona Munro, coordinator about the purpose of NGFP, their current projects, and their vision for Nottingham.

Tell us about the Nottingham Good Food Partnership. Why did you set it up? How did it begin?

Nottingham Good Food Partnership (incorporated 2018) emerged from the food sub-group of Nottingham Green Partnership. The Green Partnership was Nottingham City’s overarching environmental strategic group made up of senior representatives from local authority, business, universities and community. The food sub-group, which comprised city council officers and community food representatives, provided the grass roots local food movement with a voice at the top level table – this was an enormously important step forward.

After much discussion, Nottingham Green Partnership ratified the food sub-groups suggestion that the City should join the highly influential Sustainable Food Cities Network as the most the suitable, proven methodology to transform local food systems. This description makes it sound a bit dry, but it was an exciting, progressive period for grass roots food activists.

We are member 53 of the Sustainable Food Cities network, which is a partnership programme run by Sustain, the Soil Association, and Food Matters. The Sustainable Food Cities approach involves developing a cross-sector partnership of local public agencies, businesses, academics and NGOs committed to working together to make healthy and sustainable food a defining characteristic of where they live. The network helps people and places share challenges, explore practical solutions, and develop best practice on key food issues.

What is the purpose of NGFP?

The purpose of NGFP is to enable, facilitate and empower the citizens of Nottingham to shape the food future of their city and to make it fit for purpose for the generations to come.

What are the aims of NGFP?

The aims of NGFP are stated in the 6 key themes set out by the Sustainable Food Cities network which we have adapted to reflect our locality:

  • Commit to eradicating food poverty and diet-related ill health by increasing citizen’s access to affordable, healthy food through socially innovative growing and eating programmes
  • Promote the importance of healthy and sustainable food to our diverse communities
  • Build on the historical wealth of community food knowledge, reclaim lost skills and revitalise undervalued assets
  • Catalyse a vibrant and diverse sustainable food economy that expands local food production and shortens supply chains
  • Transform the relationship between catering and food procurement that prioritises local supply
  • Work towards a circular food economy, radically reduce the ecological footprint of the food system and aim for zero edible food waste.

Tackling food poverty is our priority theme: it is vital that we create a fair local food system. This system would ensure surplus food is redistributed to where it is most needed through the rapidly expanding network of social eating spaces. We need to radically increase access to affordable, locally grown food and to eradicate the injustice of hunger. Nottingham has the youngest and poorest population in the UK so our priority must be to create a food system fit for the purposes of the next generation.

What sorts of projects are you working on at the moment?

The range of projects are incredibly diverse, and it can be a challenging balancing act to keep everything going especially with funding routes being chased by so many organisations all doing great things. At the moment the focus is on developing a ground-breaking piece of planning guidance – the Wellbeing Design Guide which will come into effect in January 2020. This piece of work has transformed how planning guidance is developed and is believed to be a UK first. The consultation and development has come up right from the grassroots – starting with the city’s first urban greening conference back in February 2019 at which Prof David Salt was our keynote speaker. The world café setting was exactly the right forum to stimulate debate and was an ideas engine. The most striking thing that came out of the world café was a unanimous call for action not words. The ideas were collated and key points formed into a citizen’s survey. The aim of the survey was to gather opinion on how future housing developments should take account of wellbeing using food growing, nature and community gathering spaces . The survey was taken out onto the road to community events, engaging people face to face. Eight months on, over 300 surveys have been completed and the results are currently being written into the Wellbeing Design Guide. NGFP would like to acknowledge the role of the Future Food Beacon’s financial support in this: the summer long programme of events for the Nottingham Good Food Festival enabled us to reach out to communities and engage them in the survey. We simply could not have achieved what we did with the Beacon’s support.

Other key NGFP projects include:

Carbon Neutral Kitchens (CNK)– we launched this in October and were delighted to have the City Council’s Deputy Leader Cllr Sally Longford there to give the welcome address. CNK is a programme designed by NGFP and delivered in partnership with the City Council, Robin Hood Energy and D2N2. The aim is to provide a free support package and quarterly events for the city’s thriving indie food scene, which generates around £9m for the local economy. However, it is also a major contributor to emissions arising from food waste and is an intensive energy user. NGFP approached the City Council’s Carbon Neutral 2028 team and proposed the concept of CNK as a route to support food businesses. At the first event we signed up 20 businesses to access free grants. We also did a demo on how to make a simple worm bin which was snapped up by Biocity!

Nottingham’s Urban Food Plan 2020-2028 – NGFP approached the Future Food Beacon discuss how we could join forces to lead on the development of an ambitious carbon neutral, urban food plan for Nottingham. Nottingham City Council was the first city in the UK to pledge to Carbon Neutrality by 2028: it is logical that we should aim for the Urban Food Plan infrastructure to be in place and for scaling of projects to be properly established.

Neighbourhood food growing festival in the Arboretum in June 2019

How did you come together to form NGFP? The gathering together of interested parties was organic and rapid: the local food system community is very close, interacting all the time, creating valuable social capital that enables short-cuts because everyone is interconnected.

Penney has been an active member of the local food scene since the mid-1980s, and has worked in the environmental sector for many years, including a stint as a TV presenter for BBC2. Shona has both owned her own food businesses and been a business advisor to food production companies. Shona was working at Groundwork, leading on Notts Nosh – a programme designed to increase the visibility of local food producers – when she invited Penney to chair NGFP. Since then, we have worked together on a variety of projects. Our combined knowledge of local food has meant we had a lot of connections throughout the food system. We do not work alone though. Our governance structure means that a broad range of advisors from across the city, guide and direct our work. Our board is very active and supportive and nothing we do could be achieved without them.

Children’s veg power festival, August 2019

What kinds of success stories do you have?

The Good Food Festival this summer has been a great success – community action and engagement generates so much energy and brings new relationships. Our first Neighbourhood Food Festival at the Arboretum was extremely well received – we hope to make this an annual fixture.

Last year we ran two pilot food and activity programmes for children to tackle the scourge of holiday hunger. We used surplus food to make hundreds of lunches, engaged and trained volunteers, worked with the business community and most importantly provided local kids with a good meal and some great activities – including reading. Food insecurity is a very big deal in Nottingham and it’s not improving anytime soon. We must do what we can to alleviate families and communities of this burden.

Another success has been creating a network to bring together community eating space organisers, who had been largely operating in isolation. It has been immensely useful to understand the common problems affecting this largely voluntary but crucial service. A really important relationship has been forged with the Future Food beacon: to have access to a circle of academic experts who are not only world leaders in their field but personally committed to their local community is an amazing opportunity and we look forward to developing many exciting projects.

Why is food so important in Nottingham?

Nottingham is almost a tale of two cities – on one hand we have £2 billion worth of investment in new development; on the other we have a picture of grinding food poverty. The challenges of Universal Credit, generational worklessness, social isolation and diet-related ill health may well be further compounded by Brexit. Tackling food poverty is our overarching aim.

We have a thriving food and beverage scene, multi millions spent on catering by universities, the city council and the NHS, yet less than 5% is locally sourced. This is a missed economic opportunity and one that could create long-term, meaningful jobs. It has been calculated that around 250,000 people are engaged in food growing in Britain. We need closer to three million to uplift food production. Potentially, the local food system could be our own local new green deal – transforming local supply, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating new jobs. We all need to eat and to eat well and that is especially true for children and young people. Nottingham has the youngest population in the UK and one of the poorest: good nutrition and access to affordable fresh food is fundamental to life chances and long-term health. We simply cannot afford, as a society, for young people to be robbed of achieving their potential.

What food issues do you think should be prioritized at the local government level? And at the national one?

Locally, there are two issues that could make an enormous difference: to invest in expanding the network of social eating spaces to tackle social isolation, provide nutritious low cost meals, and reduce food waste. Secondly we need to identify land that can be purposed for community scale urban agriculture. It is imperative that we knit together the issues of food waste and local food production and aim for a circular food economy.

Nationally? We are really encouraged that a national food strategy is being led by Henry Dimbleby who is hugely respected. We want to see our government follow the lead of France and legislate against edible surplus food entering the waste stream. We need to see the government reinvesting in our food system at a local level and for soil health to be seen as a critical path.

What is your vision for Nottingham?

Our vision for Nottingham is to be the UK’s first forest garden city by 2028, using agroecology and permaculture principles to create a carbon neutral food city fit for purpose for forthcoming generations. It is a huge vision encompassing a wide partnership of actors and a city-wide programme of engagement and action. We are absolutely confident in the expertise and passion of the partnership to achieve this. Nottingham’s greatest asset lies in the warmth of our community and our ability to work cooperatively. NGFP was born out of interpersonal relationships, and shared sense of identity, a shared understanding of the need to reshape our food system, shared values when it comes to the need for a just food system that provides nutrition for all citizens, trust in each other, cooperation and reciprocity – a cascade of positive actions driving the foundation of a truly sustainable food city.

Posted in Food StoriesInterviewsOutreach and Engagement