Food Sustainability – Alice Guillaume on the Cambridge Food Hub
Alice Guillaume, a Cambridge University Geography graduate, is passionate about food sustainability and now works at the Cambridge Food Hub, which aims to create a healthier, more resilient and kinder local food system.
I studied Geography at the University of Cambridge. I’d always had an interest in food but, like many people, mainly from a gastronomical perspective. Having volunteered with FoodCycle, I knew that food could be a powerful way to bring people together. However, doing a module on the Politics of Food in third year gave me a better insight into the processes that governed our food systems – local to global – and the impact they had on our health and that of the planet.
During my second summer at Cambridge I did an internship with the Cambridge Food Hub. I was attracted by a project that considered food sustainability from an environmental, social and economic perspective – rather than just one or two of the three.
After graduating, I spent five months volunteering at Made in Hackney, a community kitchen in London. They run accessible, pay-as-you-can cookery classes with a fantastic atmosphere. People from all different backgrounds come together to cook and eat shared meals. Since March 2019 I have been working as Project Manager for the Food Hub.
I am particularly interested in how we can use community food initiatives to build a more equal society and would like to pursue this interest in the realm of food policy in the future.
About the Cambridge Food Hub
The Cambridge Food Hub is all about creating a better local food system. One that creates more robust connections between independent coffee shops, restaurants and retailers; small producers (particularly those producing plant-based foods and those farming organically); community initiatives and corporations that want to materially pay back into their local area.
Our shopfront enables direct trade between local buyers and producers, and our vans (most of which are electric) collect and deliver produce. We also offer services to reduce waste, including our collection of coffee grounds for recycling as part of our Green Coffee Shop Scheme.
We do efficient delivery runs, trying as far as possible to pick resources up (whether that is coffee grounds, fresh produce, surplus goods) at the same time as we are making a delivery (whether that’s of organic oat milk, coffee grounds, local veg). Our network also allows us to support community initiatives in a more efficient way. When we make a delivery to a retailer, we are also able to collect any surplus at the same time and deliver it to one of Cambridge’s community fridges.
Of course, local food is not always the lowest carbon: how food is produced, and what type of food it is, is often more important than how far food has travelled. However, this overlooks some of the tangible benefits that the physical proximity of local food initiatives allows, including the ability to bring people together, the more equitable redistribution of food, and a better connection to where our food comes from. It really does make a difference if you know the farmer who grew the veg you are eating!
Planet-focused (environmental) plans can be unjust if they do not include people, and people-focused (social) plans can be destructive if they neglect our environment. Sustainability requires both elements, plus the resources to keep a project running (‘economic sustainability’). We try to bring all of these elements to our project.
The key motivating factor behind the Food Hub is that we are not trying to come up with a technical ‘fix’ to create a more sustainable food system. Instead, we are considering how you can change the system entirely to create one which is healthier, more resilient, and kinder to the planet.