Affordable Food Projects – a neighbourhood response to healthy food access

The Brighton & Hove Food Partnership has been working with 7 new local affordable food initiatives, bringing good quality food to local residents. The pilots were all established with funding from the Big Lottery Coronavirus Support Fund as part of a partnership bid.

The projects have now been running for around six months and the Food Partnership has been busy looking into the remarkable impact they are having across the city by conducting research and producing an evaluation report with a summary.

The projects are currently supporting 323 households and operate by charging a small membership fee. In return, members get a choice of fresh locally grown produce – supplied by the social enterprise distributor hub Brighton Food Factory – and other foods – provided by the surplus food charity FareShare Sussex and other members of the Surplus Food Network alongside generous donations from local businesses and residents. These projects are typically positioned in low-income neighbourhoods where access to fresh local food is limited. They aim to help people eat better within their budget – successfully!

The quality of the food is fantastic. I am trying things I’d never tried before. The bread that the bakery donate is the nicest bread I’ve ever had, I would never be able to afford to buy it, and the eggs from local farms are such a treat.

Affordable Food Project member

Another striking impact identified in the research was that most members felt more connected to other people as a result of the project, an impressive achievement given the various lockdowns and restrictions experienced the past year.

As well as the Affordable Food Project the Lottery funding helped the new social enterprise the Brighton Food Factory to supply lower cost local food to the projects increasing the amount of fresh produce available.

The research also looked at how the projects sit within the wider food system, and how they can effect change across social, environmental and economic outcomes. For example, buying food from distributor hub Brighton Food Factory not only provides people with healthy fresh food, but helps the environment as they buy from farms using regenerative agriculture (improving biodiversity) and by collaborating on distribution they reduce vehicle journeys thereby reducing carbon emissions.

The local rural economy is also supported as money goes directly and fairly to local farmers. This example just scratches the surface of what can be achieved. We at the Food Partnership are always working towards healthy, sustainable and fair food for all, and these projects are part of that vision.

It ticks all the boxes, reduces food waste, promotes a short supply chain, healthy eating and connects people

Affordable Food Project member

The current affordable food projects; Brightstore Hollingdean/Hove, Moulsecoomb Community Market, Very Local Food Hubs, Brighton Grub Hub, Pankhurst Pantry, and Phoenix food hub, are all members of the Affordable Food Network, coordinated by the Food Partnership. The network provides a space to share resources and support (both practical and emotional) and think about how to move forward through these challenging times.

I want it to be a personal service, these are our friends that come in, they’re not just random people, I’ve lived on this estate my whole life, it is about us providing for the people we care for.

Affordable Food Project lead

Despite the breath of fresh air provided by these projects, there is still much work to be done on the broader and deeper reasons why many people are unable to afford healthy, sustainable food. The evaluation report also found that a lot of people accessing the projects were from groups not typically thought of as experiencing financial difficulties. For example, 25% of members of the schemes are in employment. The reports set out a series of recommendations on how the Food Partnership can support the affordable food projects to move forward in a considered and sustainable way, as well as the importance of feeding back insights into food poverty to the Local Authority and beyond.

Contact: Shelley@bhfood.org.uk

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