Sheffield wins national award for promoting sustainable, healthy and fair food

Sheffield has been recognised in its attempt to create a more sustainable, healthy and fair food system in the city, and work is already underway to develop this achievement further.

By Lisa Wong
Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 4:00 am

ShefFood, an independent partnership working with groups in the city, successfully bid for and won the Sustainable Food Places Bronze Award 2021 – an achievement which has been described as a ‘big deal’ for the city.

The organisation, which is a Sustainable Food Places member, is made up of voluntary, community, faith, social enterprise, local authority, academic and commercial groups.

Gareth Roberts, partnership coordinator for ShefFood, and co-founder and director of Regather - the host and lead partner of ShefFood - said: “Sheffield winning a Sustainable Food Places Bronze Award is very well deserved.

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Sheffield has been awarded with the Sustainable Food Places Bronze Award 2021.

"The bid process is very robust, and challenged Sheffield to evidence successful action around a wide range of key issues, including promoting healthy and sustainable food, tackling food poverty, addressing diet-related ill health, improving access to affordable healthy food, and reducing both waste and the ecological footprint of the food system. The bid features action across the City, and clearly demonstrates Sheffield can, and does, work together to make food better for all."

He added: “People might say, why bronze? Why not silver or gold? You have to achieve bronze first before you can achieve silver or gold, but the next steps are to work towards silver, which we’re now doing.”

Gareth explained that the award is for Sheffield as a city and said there were lots of great examples of fantastic work, which all contributed to a “good food movement”.

"Approximately 1.8 million meals are cooked, served and eaten in Sheffield everyday. Everyone is interested in food - it is at the heart of everything we do - at home, at work and at play.

ShefFood Village.

"As a major UK city how we feed ourselves impacts on our economy, health and environment. This is why good food is so important, and despite huge challenges - austerity, poverty, inequality, the climate emergency and more recently Covid-19 - the amazing good food movement in Sheffield continues to make a difference to people's lives everyday. This deserves national recognition and celebration.

"Over the past 12 years I've had the honour and pleasure of working at the heart of Sheffield's good food movement. At the best of times and at the worst of times there are always great people, with passion, independence, grit and determination. ShefFood is about bringing these people together, offering solidarity, and the opportunity to work cooperatively, in partnership, to transform for the better how Sheffield eats."

Gareth told how ShefFood was careful not to put people into boxes or tell them what to eat, as this could discourage them from getting involved.

He added: “The good food movement includes sustainability, but also health, food security, access to food and more.”

ShefFood's (L-R) Leon Ballin, Gareth Roberts and Georgia Parker. Picture Scott Merrylees

With health inequalities in Sheffield being demonstrated by the growing number of people using food banks, it is evident that huge challenges exist in the city.

It is hoped that through further partnerships, including that of the media, more awareness can be spread about ShefFood, whose mission is 'Feeding Sheffield Sustainably'.

Together, a shared vision and commitment to develop the environmental and economic benefits of a more resilient and sustainable food system for Sheffield, is hoped to be created.

Included in this vision are ambitious plans for the future.

Regather apple harvest.

Gareth said: "Regather helps fund food partnership work in Sheffield with a range of good food businesses including a city wide fruit and vegetable box scheme, a 15 acre market garden, apple juice and cider making - and later this summer - the exciting launch of a new microbakery and event catering offer.

"Pre-Covid we also operated a fantastic indoor events venue and bar, and a year round calendar of outdoor events and festivals, including the hugely popular Folk Forest at Endcliffe Park. Fingers crossed one day all these will make a return."

Sustainable Food Places is a partnership programme led by the Soil Association, Food Matters and Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming.

The Sustainable Food Places Award is designed to recognise and celebrate the success of those taking a joined-up approach to food and who have achieved significant positive change.

Places are awarded “in recognition of their fantastic efforts and achievements in promoting and normalising healthy and sustainable food”.

Key food issues taken into consideration by the judging process include: taking a strategic and collaborative approach to food governance and action; building public awareness, active food citizenship and a local good food movement; tackling food poverty and diet related ill-health and increasing access to affordable healthy food; creating a vibrant, prosperous and diverse sustainable food economy; transforming catering and procurement and revitalizing local and sustainable food supply chains; and tackling the climate and nature emergency through sustainable food and farming and an end to food waste.

ShefFood Steering Group

The awards focus more on impact rather than how something has been achieved, but it aims to recognise all of the food-related activity and continuous improvement, which there must be clear evidence for.

A spokesperson for Sustainable Food Places said: “In the face of such immense challenges as Covid and climate change, we all need to feel inspired by those people who, despite everything, continue to drive positive change in their communities. For those of us working in the food world, one need look no further than this year’s record number of SFP award winners.”

Calderdale, Glasgow, Tower Hamlets, and Oxfordshire also secured bronze awards alongside Sheffield.

Cardiff and Cambridge were this year’s silver award winners, while Bristol achieved this year’s gold award.

For more information about ShefFood, visit here.

Gareth Roberts, partnership coordinator for ShefFood. Picture Scott Merrylees