Working towards a sustainable food city

Lincoln has become the first community in the county to launch a strategy to tackle food poverty and reduce retail food waste.
The initiative by the Soil Association for Sustainable Food Cities has been the inspiration for the Lincoln Food Partnership which brings together local charities, businesses, the city and county councils and local residents.

Rebecca Callow, assistant co-ordinator for the Food Partnership is working alongside Professor Nigel Curry, author of the Food Strategy and Chair of the Lincoln Food Partnership and Mary Hollis, CEO of Green Synergy and co-ordinator for the initiative.

“As a sustainable Food City, Lincoln is currently working towards achieving a Bronze Award.” said Rebecca. “To do this we are aiming to tackle food poverty and encourage affordable, healthy food within the city. We want to combat diet-related illness and help people access wholesome nourishment. We aim to build knowledge within the community about food and improve skills to grow, prepare and cook affordable meals. Lastly we want to reduce food waste and cut the ecological footprint of the food system.”

Lincoln’s heritage as home of Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest has been the impetus for the launch on 7th November of a Food Charter for Lincoln which will take place at The Grandstand on Carholme Road. The event will be opened by MP Karen Lee and keynote speaker is Lincolnshire’s celebrity chef, Rachel Green. People and organisations will be able to pledge their support for the six aims of the Charter. They will also receive a poster to display in their home or premises showing their support. The six aims are:
1. Promoting healthy and sustainable food to the public
2. Tackling food poverty, diet-related ill health and access to affordable healthy food
3. Building community food knowledge, skills, resources and projects
4. Promoting a vibrant and diverse sustainable food economy
5. Transforming catering and food procurement
6. Reducing waste and the ecological footprint of the food system

Green Synergy shares many of the aims of the Charter and the Lincoln Food Partnership in its role as a community embedded project managing a 2.5-acre gardening and horticultural site on land leased from United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust. It is next to the Peter Hodgkinson acute mental health centre and as well as working to build community cohesion with the 400 households of the Tower estate, the site also offers therapy to patients and training opportunities.

“We took over the site in February 2017,” said Mary, “and it was completely overgrown with brambles and weeds. Our volunteers, staff and group participants have worked to clear the land to create areas for wildlife conservation, growing vegetables and fruit, community events and horticultural therapy. Our Tower Power, children’s club come to garden, water and build their own pride in the garden. We hope that within 3 years we can start to introduce livestock as well, including Lincolnshire heritage breeds and goats and giant rabbits that will help us deliver animal assisted therapies.”

Green Synergy welcomes help from anyone interested in volunteering and any contributions of materials such as fencing, hard core, compost and plants which people can make in kind or by funding. 

One of the projects that is contributing to the aims of the food partnership is Mint Lane Café just off Silver Street in the heart of the city.

Established nearly eighteen months ago within the Involve@Lincoln building at 12 Mint Lane, the café is run by a community interest company which receives surplus food from FareShare, a national charity, local supermarkets and suppliers as well as the Starbucks Community Café Programme.

Charles Cooke is the centre manager and a director of the café. “Involve provides a range of services and peer support groups for people with enduring difficulties with their mental health. We already had a kitchen in our premises and a room suitable for accommodating large, sociable dining tables so the initiative to provide affordable, nourishing food to people in difficult circumstances was perfect to match our aims to provide friendship and improve wellbeing for our attendees.”

Angeletia Padmore-Clarke is the café manager and Anastasia Oyebanji is the centre’s volunteer co-ordinator. They could not run the centre or café without volunteers and although they have around forty committed helpers, there are always more needed and additional courses and training which could be run, such as food hygiene or first aid which would help attendees to keep moving forward in their lives.

Angeletia utilises her own cooking skills in the café to decide a menu based on whatever is donated that week.

“We place a weekly order with FareShare which is fairly reliable to be accurate. Our local donations which are collected on foot or bike around town come from M&S, Tesco, Lincolnshire Co-op, Foster’s Butchers and Ticklebelly Lane Bakery.

“We open the café on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and serve a breakfast option, sandwiches, a choice of soup or salad starter, two hot main courses, one of which will be vegetarian, and a choice of desserts. A main meal is £2 and everything else 50p. Any surplus pre-packaged food such as bread, pasta, potatoes etc is placed on our shop shelf, where it can be taken home in return for a monetary donation – whatever people feel they can afford.”

While the café is fulfilling some of the aims of reducing food waste, Charles knows there is more to achieve: “I would like to see a local food rescue network for the city so that we do not need to import from FareShare’s warehouse in Hull each week. We collect on foot at present so without transport this cannot be extended across the city. We also create waste in our kitchen, some of which goes into our compost bin in the communal garden but more could feed an anaerobic digester to provide gas or energy back to the centre. Securing funding is always the challenge.”

Mint Lane Café is open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10am to 3pm at 12 Mint Lane, Lincoln LN1 1UD

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