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A Magazine for Sheffield

"There is more than enough food to go around": Food Works on their new surplus pop-up shop

Food Works is helping to lead the way for a healthier, more equitable food future in Sheffield. Dan and Gavin told us more about their community activities, including their new 'pay what you can' shop.

Dan and Gavin Food Works

Dan and Gavin from Food Works.

Food Works

Food Works distribute and upcycle surplus food, support local growing, promote sustainability and advocate for positive change for food systems in Sheffield. Through projects like community cafes, pop-up shops, cooking classes and educational workshops, they open up access to food.

The new Stradbroke pop-up shop is one of their most recent community-driven initiatives which showcases the power of grassroots change and community-led collaboration. I spoke to Gavin and Dan from Food Works to find out more about the shop and how it links to the organisation's wider ambitions to help create a fairer food system that works for everyone.

How did the idea for the pop-up shop at Stradbroke come about?

[Gavin] The project is being run in collaboration with funding from Sheffield City Council and the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority.

Through conversations at the ShefFood-led network group called Food Ladders it was decided that a community pop-up shop could help people get improved access to food they could afford. That is where Food Works offered to step in and roll out a series of six pop-ups based on the model we use at our market at Handsworth, which is supplied by surplus food.

For some people [Handsworth] might as well be the other side of the country. That is the point of the pop-up project. We know we will never cover everywhere, but if we can do it in a few communities at least and make it a model that works, that is worth trying.

[Dan] We want people to know we are not a food bank or a charity organisation, so people don’t need a referral to come to us. We are really big on treating everyone like equals.

We are about raising awareness and educating people too. We want to share how to make the most of food and not waste food. If people like the community pop-up model and want to try it for themselves, then they can go ahead.

Why did you pick Stradbroke and how has the community responded?

[Gavin] We had a link with Helen who runs the building called The Link in Stradbroke, as they are one of our partner hubs who take our Just Meals ready meals. They are a fantastic organisation who do so much for the community. Helen helped to get the local community engaged and excited.

[Dan] The opening day was a hit. We had plenty of people coming in and we know word of mouth will get around in the community for the next pop-up. People were very generous with their donations too.

The model is simple. Each section a customer shops in, they are allowed a certain number items. Each section is worth one contribution. The minimum contribution for each section is £1. So if a customer shops at three sections, for example, that is a minimum of £3. We will say, 'That's three contributions. What would you like to pay today?' or something along those lines.

This creates the opportunity for contributions in line with our pay-what-you-can-afford ethos. We wouldn't be able to operate without the minimum contribution unfortunately, or if everyone contributed only the minimum, but the model is there to make it as accessible as possible while making our offering sustainable.

Food Works stradbroke feedback

Feedback on Food Works' Stradbroke pop-up shop.

Food Works

Do you think community collaboration is where the power for change is? And why is change in food systems needed?

[Gavin] We have had really good support from Sheffield Council [...] but you can’t beat the power of doing things, and we have always tried to be an organisation who campaigns by doing.

It's a tough environment, as you have a huge demand for food at the moment because of the cost of living crisis – then the availability of surplus food is stretched. When you are trying to deliver a service which is powered in part by surplus, we have had to learn how to adapt. So we are tapping more into wholesalers, farmers and producers.

We are also a campaigning body, which is about how we can go beyond meeting immediate needs, change systems and find structural improvements which will make for a healthier and sustainable future. Ultimately we want to stop food being wasted.

[Dan] This is not just something which happens in the UK. In Canada, where I'm from, there are similar issues where large grocery stores are wasteful and still making record profits.

Currently we have a few that give us chilled and frozen produce but some have corporate rules that mean they can’t give us chilled and frozen foods which can mean that goes in the bin. I get the health and safety perspective, but in the meantime that is tonnes of food which is being thrown away. We have the capacity to deal with it with laws and regulations, and that is where I am trying to influence change.

Where would you like things to be in five years time in Sheffield?

[Dan] I would love to see that people didn’t need to use food banks or go hungry. [That] even if they are on Universal Credit or other benefits, they can still afford to get decent food on the table. There is more than enough food being produced and enough to go around.

That's what being sustainable is about – people have enough and don’t have to be reliant on community-driven food banks.

[Gavin] I think we would like to not exist in five years in our current form. We want to see people being able to eat sustainably and everyone having access to affordable, decent food.

Part of that is definitely about growing. There is a lot of land in Sheffield that isn’t really utilised and we are asking the council to give us land which we can use to grow at scale. That is a fantastic educational and environmental tool, and a food provision tool.

We are looking at doing more community cafes, as a big part of what we want to do is to bring people together around food. It's one of the things people most naturally bond over.

How can people get involved?

[Gavin] We always need volunteers and there are lots of different roles. We have people who drive the vans, work in the warehouse or in the marketplace or the cafes. You can sign up for shifts which work for you, weekly or monthly.

Come and use our services, whether that is visiting the market, coming along to our events or getting lunch in one of our cafes. Everything runs on [a] 'pay what you can' [basis] and everyone is welcome.

Also, think about what you are doing at home, as household food waste is roughly about 40% of all food waste. It will also help us all save money if we buy just what we need. We should all be more mindful of how we use food and consider how we can make a social and environmental impact through small actions.

Access info
Food Works' Stradbroke pop-up shop is not currently wheelchair accessible.
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