The recent Sheffield Food Festival was a great showcase for local food producers despite the typical Sheffield weather! Anyone who browsed the stalls will have been impressed by the sheer range of food and drink on offer, nearly all produced within a few miles of the city.
However, the Food Festival is just one part of the broader picture regarding food in the city. Whilst Sheffield can boast a growing variety of artisan and specialist food producers, there are also an increasing number of food banks across the city, supporting families who are struggling in these tough economic times. Many other parents are also finding it a real challenge to feed their families healthily when budgets are tight. This is a critical issue for the city. A poor diet is closely linked to ill health and lower life expectancy, but there is no one simple solution. A complex range of factors effect people’s ability to eat healthily, including poverty, the unavailability of healthy food options in local shops and a lack of food skills and knowledge.
Last month, networking group Third Sector Café gathered a group of individuals and organisations with a shared ambition of making Sheffield a city where everyone is able to access healthy food. Community groups sat alongside academics, traders, charities, social enterprises and Sheffield Public Heath staff for a session introduced by Megan Blake from Sheffield University.
This was Sheffield at its best, bringing together people from all sectors to share ideas and experiences. Amongst a range of contributions, Dave Cates of Redemption Media talked about the food bank app he had developed which is now being used by 15 per cent of all food banks in the UK, Kim Swan from Victoria Community Café presented A Trail of Crumbs, an initiative which trains volunteers to teach groups and individuals how to make bread (the tasty, healthy stuff – not the white pap), Heeley City Farm spoke about their support of city-wide community and school allotments. One recurring theme was that, in an increasingly divisive political climate, food offers a great way of bringing groups and communities together. There is no quick fix to promote healthy eating across the city, but the networks being built across Sheffield’s voluntary, private and public sectors are a good place to start.