Hackney food pioneer Growing Communities wins BBC award

Stoke Newington Farmers Market West Hackney

Stocks Farm at Stoke Newington Farmers' Market, West Hackney Recreation Ground. Photograph: Growing Communities

Hackney-based social enterprise Growing Communities has won the ‘Big Food Idea’ category of the BBC Food & Farming Awards 2012 for its efforts to change our current food system into one that is more sustainable and resilient.

“It’s fantastic that the judges of the Food & Farming Awards have recognised how Growing Communities’ model of community-led trade can help build a food system that is fairer, more resilient and less dependent on fossil fuels,” said Growing Communities director Julie Brown.

“We now want to help other communities set up their own veg box schemes based on our model, through our Start-up Programme. There are already six other communities from across the UK who have taken part in the programme and who now run box schemes, creating local jobs and supporting local sustainable farmers – but we’d like more!”

Growing Communities has spent nearly 18 years developing its model of community-led trade, which harnesses the collective buying power of the local community to support small-scale, sustainable farmers through its organic veg box scheme and farmers’ market – creating 27 part-time jobs along the way and supporting 25 small organic farmers and growers, mostly from South-East England.

Growing Communities is looking for more groups to join its Start-up Programme over the next year to help create the alternatives that make direct links between those communities and the people producing their food.

In Hackney, Growing Communities packs more than 1,100 bags of fruit and veg every week, supplying around 2,500 people in east London with organic, locally produced food. Last year, 86 per cent of the vegetables and 32 per cent of the fruit supplied by the Hackney box scheme were grown in the UK. This compares with Government figures showing that UK producers accounted for just 23 per cent of the fruit and vegetables consumed in the UK in 2009.

Over the years, Growing Communities has generated the income to allow it to start other projects – including training apprentices in urban food growing and producing over a tonne of salad leaves annually on its small Urban Market Gardens and Patchwork Farm in Hackney as well as setting up the weekly Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market.

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