3. Building community food knowledge, skills, resources and projects
Sharing knowledge is a vital aspect of a Sustainable Food City. Innovation and action at the grassroots level can only happen when groups and individuals work together to pool their resources and expertise. So it’s important that communities feel connected, valued and able to take control of their own initiatives.
Cambridge Sustainable Food started out as a grass-roots organisation, and has gone on to unite the whole city, connecting: growers, businesses, councils, NGOs and even the health and education sectors. It runs a wide range of community initiatives, including free cookery courses, communal growing spaces, and a produce box initiative.
CSF’s most unprecedented success has been the Cambridge Pumpkin Festival, which has grown rapidly since its inception in 2015. The citywide event draws on the excitement of Halloween to enthuse families about sustainable farming and to help people become more aware of the issues around food waste. According to the organisers, many families didn’t even realise that pumpkins could be cooked. Even foodies were surprised by the pumpkin’s potential, demonstrated through a fantastic range of workshops and stalls.
The key to the festival’s success is the diversity of the organisations involved, from the local council to a CSF member’s father, who painted a pumpkin cut-out board for funny photo opportunities. In 2016, they attached a pop-up farmer’s market, which drew in even more customers and provided valuable revenue for local growers. In fact, 2016’s festival involved around 20 different community organisations and 30 different businesses, attracting over 2700 attendees. Numbers are only set to increase in the coming years.