19 March 2021

Voicing our support for low carbon food infrastructure in Sheffield

Why we're supporting an ambitious roadmap to expand and broaden low carbon food production in Sheffield.

Wide ranging view over the Meersbrook allotments in Sheffield. There are trees and a lane in the foreground and a highrise building in the background
Heeley and Meersbrook Allotments, Sheffield

A new discussion paper (pdf) by ShefFood sets out an ambitious road map to expand and broaden low carbon food production in Sheffield.

The proposals, supported by the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield, intends to initiate a conversation about the ways in which citizens, socially-focused businesses and the City Council can come together to lay the foundations for low-carbon urban and peri-urban agricultural enterprises and growing projects throughout the city.

Here, Professor Peter Jackson and Professor Duncan Cameron, Directors of the Institute for Sustainable Food explain how this vision can boost food security and make way for sustainable food production in Sheffield:

This year’s United Nations COP26 in Glasgow brings the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into sharp focus. With 24% of all global greenhouse gas emissions generated by agriculture and with agriculture recognised as the biggest threat to an estimated 86% of plant and animal species at risk of extinction through the expansion of the global agricultural footprint, it is now clear that the way we produce our food urgently needs to change. These striking global statistics reveal the need for action now, and although international policy is critical in mitigating the environmental footprint of the food that we consume, local action and innovation will be equally, if not more, important if we are ever to make the food system sustainable and fair.

To achieve food security, “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”, we all urgently need to reflect on what we can do as individuals and communities to lessen the impact of the food that we eat on the natural world to allow us to exist within the constraints defined by our Planet’s limited resources.

Carrots in a tub.

The COVID-19 crisis revealed the vulnerability of our food system, plunging people who never imagined that they would become food insecure into food insecurity, almost overnight. The global supply chains on which our current food system is based are fragile and this realisation has highlighted the need to develop our local and regional food production capacity to help mitigate these risks. For example, a recent study from the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield has shown that urban food production is far more than a niche opportunity, revealing that cities such as Sheffield have sufficient usable space to become self-sufficient for vegetable and fruit production should they so desire.

While this may be overly ambitious, it is clear that a very significant proportion of the food that we eat could be produced locally with lower carbon emissions, with social enterprise and local food partnerships playing a central role in redefining our approach to growing food. By reimagining the way we produce food, and democratising food production, agriculture and horticulture in the urban landscape has a significant role to play in our national food security, breaking down barriers to healthy eating while contributing significantly to a sustainable food future.

This roadmap sets out just such an opportunity, expanding and broadening sustainable, low carbon food production in Sheffield, building social licence, providing education as well as a platform for a city-wide values-based food system that is fair and just. Decarbonising our food system must be a central pillar in our green recovery from the COVID-19 crisis as well as a major opportunity for reducing regional inequalities within the UK.

Professor Peter Jackson and Professor Duncan Cameron

Directors of the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield

Read the full report

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