Date: 20th September 2018
‘Social gastronomy’ is a global movement that uses the power of food as a tool for social change. There are social gastronomers the length and breadth of the UK, pioneers of sustainable food businesses that are turning the established model on its head.
This movement is gathering pace, with ever more social food businesses focused on supporting marginalised groups, and on having social impact and value via food.
Sustainable food businesses can have impacts on people or on the planet (or even both at the same time!). Many food pioneers work with marginalised people. Better Health Bakery, a social enterprise bakery based in Haggerston, East London is one example. Part of The Centre for Better Health, a long-standing Hackney-based mental health charity, the bakery provides work-skills training placements for those who have been distanced from employment due to mental ill-health. The bakery’s produce is sold to the local community, and the revenue generated is ploughed back in to the Centre for Better Health to support the organisation’s work.
Another inspiring example is the San Patrignano community in Italy which has links with the UK. San Patrignano is one of the world’s most successful drug rehabilitation communities which offers residents opportunities to develop 52 different skills around food, drink and agriculture. The scheme has a 72% success rate, and 1,500 people reside in the community at any one time, staying an average of three years. Most of the young people living there have been affected by heroin.
Other pioneers are focusing on environmental impacts of the food industry. ChicP is a small company that was set up to divert perfectly edible food from the waste stream and turn it into nutritious and delicious snacks. Founded on a passionate commitment to reduce food waste and eat healthier, sustainable food, it uses surplus vegetables and fruit in its products. The ethos behind ChicP is to have a positive impact on the community by ensuring our natural resources are used wisely, shaping our health habits for the better.
The food sector is a tough environment for a social enterprise. Funding avenues do exist, but are scarce, so social businesses must aim to be fully financially sustainable. It’s a big challenge to make money, keep customers happy and do things you truly care about, but it is possible!
Note: key questions to ask and/ or top tips
Social food businesses need to balance their interests to be successful: make money, keep customers happy, and do things you truly care about.