Food Column: Food Policy Changes Helping Thousands in Sheffield
It also includes community projects making a massive difference with limited resources, such as Parson Cross Community Pantry and United Women Affiliation. It’s these local shops and social spaces that make Sheffield a fantastic city to live in. Still, today, we’d like to share what some of the larger institutes in the city are doing to improve food, sustainability and health in their organisations. Celebrating the food strategies that are helping thousands across Sheffield.
Universities supporting sustainable food
It will be no surprise to readers that Sheffield is a student city. With 60,000 students calling the city home, that’s a lot of mouths to feed. Both Sheffield Hallam University and The University of Sheffield have made changes to help students and staff make more sustainable choices when it comes to food.
Hallam Cafes have changed single-use cutlery to biodegradable corn starch options. They have also provided 3,000 reusable cups, saving 200,000 disposable cups from landfill each year. Hallam has also committed to sourcing most key products from the South Yorkshire region. Their local suppliers include Doughboy, Our Cow Molly, Roastology and Roses the Bakers. The university is also one of very few UK universities to install a bio-digester in its catering facility to tackle food waste. This digester consumes up to 100 kg of food waste daily, converting it into grey water. In a typical year, this can save a whopping 4.9 tons of food from landfill!
The University of Sheffield has implemented changes that acknowledge the impact food agriculture has on the climate. They no longer sell pre-packaged beef and lamb sandwiches, recognising that these mass-produced meat can be particularly environmentally damaging. Instead, they have a fantastic range of vegetarian and vegan food for sale in their outlets. Like Hallam, they also opt for local suppliers, with Our Cow Molly supplying all milk on campus and Roastology sourcing ethical and sustainable coffee from their cooperative partner CENCOIC. The University has also created community fridges in halls of residence and the union, as well as partnering with local food banks to ensure good food doesn’t go to waste.
Council leading the way
But Sheffield is, of course, home to more than just our students, and Sheffield City Council have implemented some key food strategies over the last few years to make our city fairer, healthier and greener.
The Council passed the Food Access Plan in July 2022, which included investment for a food community development role at Voluntary Action Sheffield. This role provides advice and support in community food spaces, which will help expand food access. Successful collective food stores, organised through Sheffield City Council via S6 Foodbank, will ensure supplies for community food organisations during this winter when emergency food is at its highest need. In collaboration with ShefFood, the council also developed a cross-sector food policy for the city, creating a plan of action for sustainable food in Sheffield.
Many of the council’s changes focus on the diets of the city’s children. Their Free School Meals Auto-enrollment Scheme with schools and caterers has ensured more families receive what they are entitled to. The council-led Eat Smart programme helps schools to think about food across the school day, encouraging healthy eating and healthier attitudes. The Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programmes deliver nutritious food across Sheffield and support nutritional education. Eleven thousand four hundred children in Sheffield attended a HAF activity in the Summer of 2022. And the Hot Food Takeaways planning policy is currently in draft so that no new takeaways can open within 800m of schools in Sheffield.
These are just some of the policy changes and implementations we’ve seen across the city that are helping thousands access better food and improve their health outcomes.
Sick of Hospital food? Not in Sheffield
While council policies have focused on improving and maintaining the fitness of our community, Sheffield’s fantastic NHS has been nursing others back to health with sustainable and delicious food.
Sheffield’s Teaching Hospitals (STH) has committed to cooking all inpatient meals from scratch and using as many UK-based suppliers as possible. In 2020, for example, 76% of the patient menu was freshly produced. Cooking on-site means they can improve the nutritional quality of the food and offer a wider variety of options for different medical needs, such as texture-modified meals.
STH uses local suppliers such as J W Young of Sheffield for meats, Mike Maloney's Country Butchers & Bakers in Newark for traditional pork snacks and Sheffield’s Brook Bakery for sweet treats. The Soil Association has consistently accredited STH Catering the Food For Life Served Here Bronze Standard since 2015 for providing patient meals and main meals in dining rooms, making our hospitals' food healthier and more sustainable. With more nutritious meals, Sheffield’s NHS Trusts ensures our friends, family, and neighbours are back on their feet quicker than ever.
If you want to hear more success stories about food in Sheffield, head to the ShefFood website at sheffood.org.uk. ShefFood is a cross-sector partnership of organisations committed to creating a more sustainable food system for Sheffield. Contact [email protected] for more information.