Pie-Jacked by Middlesbrough Food Partnership

Author: Nick Taylor Buck, 28th February 2018

Members of SAFE’s Sheffield and Manchester Action Research Teams recently attended an information and networking event in Middlesbrough, organised by Joe Dunne, the Food Partnership Manager at Middlesbrough Environment City. The event was held on 26th February, and we were accompanied by representatives from Hull Food Partnership and Good Food York. The 1-day workshop included presentations, round-table discussions, a visit to an Anaerobic Digestion plant, a trip on the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge to help launch Fair Trade Fortnight, and a fantastic pie and mash lunch provided by local firm Pie Jackers, who source 60% of their ingredients locally.

Digital Infrastructure

Middlesbrough has been doing fantastic work on its food system for several years now, supported by its digital brand Growing Middlesbrough - a free online directory for any business that provides a one-stop-shop for anyone wanting to buy local food. Growing Middlesbrough also runs regular events like 'Local Food Weekends', where local food businesses are encouraged to prepare dishes containing at least two local ingredients, and the 'Middlesbrough Town Meal' - an annual celebration of local food growing and eating.

Local Authority Leadership

Both Middlesbrough and Hull have very high rates of obesity for children in reception year, and both have been addressing this issue by refusing planning permission to new fast-food takeaways that would be in close proximity to schools. Middlesbrough has also developed a healthy eating award system called Food4Health, which recognises and rewards food businesses that offer healthy food options, promote healthy eating and have responsible business practices. We learned a great deal about the governance structures and close ties between Middlesbrough Food Partnership and Middlesbrough Council that enabled these successes, with particularly strong collaboration around public health and economic development.

The Procurement Principle

A crucial element to Middlesbrough’s burgeoning food economy also seems to have been the key role played by local education establishments.  Both Middlesbrough College and Teeside University explained how they have put good food at the centre of their culture, and revamped their procurement policies to provide a steady demand for local produce. 

Overall, it was an inspiring visit, and we look forward to reciprocating their hospitality later in the year!