A perspective on food waste, sustainability and getting involved.

Sheffield is a creative city full of people innovating, making and solving all manner of digital, industrial and social issues. Where food is concerned Sheffield has a beating heart of artisans creating wonderful products and really caring about the provenance of their ingredients.

But we’re real here in Sheffield. We’re pragmatic and we like value. We don’t like waste and we care deeply for our natural environment.

So, what happens when these worlds collide? The makers, the social entrepreneurs and the helpers?

Something amazing happens for people, produce and planet…

Over the past 4 years a group of people, spanning from 1 in 2015 to 200+ in 2019 have been working to create a more fair and sustainable food system in Sheffield. Born out of a need to raise awareness of and reduce food waste, Food Works (formerly The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield), began in earnest as a volunteer led project headed up by Jo Hercberg. Jo had a vision to bring the pay-as-you-feel concept to Sheffield and was soon inundated with people and food businesses wanting to work together to reduce food waste across the city.

Fast forward just 4 years and Food Works now employs 8 people, operates across 3 sites and saves over 1 tonne of food each and every day in Sheffield. From this food only one small wheelie bin goes to anaerobic digestion each week. The rest of it is used across Food Works’ pay-as-you-feel community cafés, social supermarket, catering function, schools programme and Green Box scheme.

Sustainability is key to Food Works’ mission. The social enterprise is non-profit and self funded meaning it can keep access open to everyone in the city. Environmental sustainability is of prime importance and you will see ‘Juan’ the electric van zipping around Sheffield collecting food 7 days a week to keep the deliveries low carbon.

Sheffield has absolutely grasped the concept that food waste is a huge environmental problem and a silly problem at that but it’s what we do next that matters.

Food Works would not exist if it wasn’t for the people of Sheffield getting behind the idea and getting involved by volunteering, eating at ticketed events and using the many services that Food Works offers. The food businesses of Sheffield, from large institutions such as Sheffield Hallam University to small bakeries, have shown so much willing over the years to work with Food Works to reduce their food waste.

Making food work for Sheffield will mean different things to different people. To some it’s about making food available, accessible and affordable. For others it’s making a city where food businesses can thrive, educating the next generation and providing areas for growing and improving cooking skills across the board. These are all big tasks and need a coordinated effort to solve them. Luckily Food Works are working with Sustainable Food Cities with others in Sheffield to bring this into fruition for our wonderful city!

To get involved with Food Works Sheffield you can:

For further info, images etc please contact Jo Hercberg, Director Food Works. jo@realjunkfoodsheffield.com

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