Sheffield Food Conference

Growing Sheffield’s Local Food Economy

This conference was held at Hallam University as part of Sheffield’s Food Festival. It was attended by 60 delegates and was preceded by a wonderful lunch consisting of mainly local produce!

The conference was split into two sections: the first being addressed by Graeme Willis (CPRE); Darrell Maryon (Heeley City Farm); Huw Evans (Sheffield Organic Growers).

The local food movement is important, as it is a significant contributor to a more sustainable economy and lifestyle. The CPRE defined local as within 30 miles where a network of links exist amongst people who buy, sell, produce and supply food - that is raw or lightly processed - in an area.

The government and Local Authorities should be looking to develop an economic framework that supports this diversity. In its planning policy and guidance Sheffield Local Authority should develop local food partnerships.

Heeley City Farm has an impressive array of activities throughout the city that engages, encourages, trains and inspires people and their communities to grow their own food. Sheffield Organic Growers based at Hazelhurst have been creative in pooling their resources, showing a determined will to establish food which is local, organic and fairly traded.

It is important that this movement, which is providing more local food to the people of Sheffield, is given every encouragement to help achieve sustainability. The delegates discussed at tables the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that face the local food movement. The thoughts of the participants will be collated and considered in due course.

The second half of the conference was addressed by: Peter McGrath (from Taylor Shaw who deliver Sheffield’s School Meals Contract); Richard Davies (Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust); Reverend Louise Collins (Fir Vale Food Bank)

Taylor Shaw demonstrated their commitment to local food, purchasing food from suppliers in the area for Sheffield school children. Sheffield NHS Foundation Trust encourages participation in vegetable gardening, as an aid to recovery of people who experience serious mental health distress. The Fir Vale Food Bank is one example of a growing number of food banks that have been set up in Sheffield, where people can donate food for those in the city who are finding it difficult in the present economic circumstances to make ends meet.

Taylor Shaw deliver the School Meals Contract to schools in Durham, where they have been awarded Bronze for their catering from the Soil Association. This is a really positive step to achieving greater sustainability and healthy diets for school children that Sheffield City Council, its schools and caterers can also aspire to achieving.

Overall, the conference provided an impetus for local growers, suppliers and distributors etc. to continue to move our economy to a more sustainable model.

 Richard Souter