It’s organisations like Sheffield Food Collective that really give you a sense of pride in our city’s community spirit. Set up by a couple of very humble and thoughtful individuals, the collective has grown extensively since February 2014 when it all began, building connections throughout the city and beyond. They work hard, not only with […]

It’s organisations like Sheffield Food Collective that really give you a sense of pride in our city’s community spirit. Set up by a couple of very humble and thoughtful individuals, the collective has grown extensively since February 2014 when it all began, building connections throughout the city and beyond. They work hard, not only with fundraising, but working practically with food banks across Sheffield, giving help to those who need it. We caught up with Laura Acaster, one of the founders.

First off, tell us a little bit about the collective. What sort of events do you put on?
We’re a group of people that live in Sheffield that saw how the cuts were affecting people and how poverty was getting worse here. It upset us and we were shocked by it and we wanted to see what we could do to help, so we hooked up with some people that run different food organisations and food banks and told them about our ideas.

A lot of last year was putting on a lot of music events. People volunteered to help us out and run things for us. We tried some other events, like yoga, but realised that our music events were pretty successful. We have people that get in touch with us and ask to help us now. I guess that’s the kind of ethos of a collective – we just keep branching out and more and more people want to chip in.

Do you think poverty is more of an issue in Sheffield than people realise?
There’s a big split in Sheffield. There are three wards that are poorer than Tower Hamlets according to national statistics, then you’ve got the Hallam ward and that’s the richest outside of London. There is this big split inside the city which is so uneven, but there is this big community spirit here – so many people that show a lot of interest in helping other people out.

Are there more organisations like your own that the people of Sheffield should be supporting?
Yeah, there are all sorts of different food organisations, like Timebuilders, Abundance, Food Cycle and Sheffield on a Plate. They’re all really good organisations that we’re in correspondence with a lot. They work in different communities as well.

Is there more that the government and local councils could be doing?
Well, we’re essentially fulfilling a social need that should be fulfilled by the Council and the government. It’s the welfare state. Since the reforms that the coalition government have brought in, things have got so much worse for people, and that’s why people have turned to food banks. 

How do you feel about the upcoming election?
There are three main parties and there isn’t much difference between them, as they all occupy very similar views. For people who really care about the welfare state, it feels like there isn’t much choice at all. I feel partially excited to maybe see a different front to the government, but I don’t foresee it being the change that we really need.

What events have you got coming up?
First and foremost, our Diane Cluck gig on the 2 May. She is an amazing Virginia-based singer. She was in the anti-folk movement in New York and she’s got such a beautiful voice and such interesting new-folk songs.  We’ve put on shows for her before and she asked to come back and do a show for us. That’s going to be at Upper Chapel on Norfolk Street, the beautiful church opposite the Brown Bear. You can get tickets from Party for the People online for £8 or £10 on the door.

We’re working with food banks and are currently looking to work on a cuisine club and do the first one up at Parson Cross food bank. That will be an interesting, exciting way for people to learn different cuisines from across the globe. We’d be interested in hearing from chefs or anybody who is interested in food and fancies teaching a handful of people at different food banks. We also started Folk and Feast at the end of last year and we run those regularly now. It’s great to keep people coming along to those. You can find out more about all of our projects on our Facebook page or by joining our mailing list.

facebook.com/sheffieldfoodcollective

Photo by Sara Hill

Tasha Franek