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Social enterprise as a catalyst for sustainable and healthy local food systems

Funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

Researchers at Middlesex University (lead), the University of Surrey (co-lead), Glasgow Caledonian University and Shared Assets are researching how social enterprises can bring innovations in healthy and sustainable food. The £380,000 project grant from UKRI is part of the Transforming UK Food Systems programme.

The scale of change needed to transform UK food systems for health, social justice and environment requires new ideas, organisational models and collaborative approaches that can meaningfully engage individuals and communities. Existing top-down approaches to the challenge of sustainable food provision and diet have failed to tackle the crisis of poor dietary health and sustainable food production. The research will focus on the distinctive role of social enterprises (trading with a core social and environmental purpose), exploring and enhancing their unique contribution to food systems that are more inclusive, sustainable and healthy. This will include social enterprises providing community growing spaces and distribution schemes, leisure and fitness centres, children's nurseries and other community-based services.

The project will work closely with six partner social enterprises: Community Transport Glasgow (tackling access to affordable food), Cultivate Powys (local growing and social prescribing), London Early Years Foundation (nursery chef initiative), Selby Trust London (food and community hub), Social Adventures Salford (therapeutic growing and local food hub), Windmill Hill City Farm Bristol (growing space and community hub).

The research findings will be used to co-design resources and toolkits to support the scaling-up or replication of successful models and innovations and the sharing of good practice across the country. This is not without its challenges and the project will examine the various barriers and constraining factors and how they can best be addressed. In addition to good practice guides for social enterprises and other organisations across the country, policy briefings will be prepared, focusing on the different levels of local, regional and national policy making.

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