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Belfast: Becoming a Sustainable Food City

Farm to fork mentality is catching on with the help of the Belfast Food Network. The project, set up by Sustainable NI in 2014, brings together different partners to help make healthy and sustainable food a defining feature of Belfast city. In this way, food is being used to to address some of today’s most pressing social, economic and environmental problems including dietary health, food poverty and climate change.

The Belfast Food Network works by establishing an effective cross-sector food partnership, embedding healthy and sustainable food in policy as well as developing and delivering a food strategy and action plan. This is delivered through six overarching themes:

  1. Promotion of healthy and sustainable food to the public    

  2. Tackling food poverty, diet-related ill-health and access to affordable healthy food

  3. Building community food knowledge, skills, resources and project

  4. Promoting a vibrant and diverse sustainable food economy     

  5. Transforming catering and good procurement

  6. Reducing waste and the ecological footprint of the food system

Spin-off projects enabled by Belfast Food Network (with help from the Federation of City Farms & Community Gardens) are the  Green Buds and Root Soup projects, and a new partnership between KaffeO, a cafe on the Ormeau Road, and L’Arche, which supports individuals and communities with intellectual disabilities.

Green Buds and Root Soup Projects

The Green Buds project provides a space for communities to flourish with volunteers meeting every week in the hills of Castlereagh, come rain or shine, to grow fruit and vegetables. The volunteers gain food knowledge and skills and they take home some of the produce they grow, increasing access to organic food and encouraging a healthy diet. Some produce is used to support sister project Root Soup which teaches volunteers to cook soups, stews and other dishes using their own produce. The recipes are shared online, showcasing the project and encouraging healthy eating. The team of volunteers also cater for events, providing a great example of how catering can be transformed to provide healthy, sustainable food for corporate events whilst at the same time supporting a project with a strong social function.

Connnection with KaffeO

A local cafe called KaffeO buys produce from the Green Buds initiative, helping to sustain the project and put the food to good use locally. In addition, the cafe hosts two work placements in the kitchen for L’Arche volunteers. The partnership extends the reach of Green Buds and Root Soup by providing opportunities for the volunteers and additionally, it helps reduce the ecological footprint of the food system by using a local supplier and promotes a diverse local food economy.

The projects encourage community inclusion and the personal development of volunteers to increase their confidence and self-esteem with the goal of preparing them for independent living and employment. Working together in combination, these projects encapsulate all six of delivery themes of the Belfast Food Network.

The case study illustrates a comprehensive approach to sustainability through food. In particular, the collaboration with local cafe KaffeO demonstrates a prime example of what can achieved through partnership working, helping the Belfast Food Network bring the city of Belfast a step closer to becoming a Sustainable Food City.

For more information on Green Buds click here

For more information on Root Soup click here

For Root Soup Recipes click here

For information on KaffeO click here