THE BLOG

Help Us Put Students at the Heart of the Sustainable Food Revolution

17/03/2016 15:53 GMT | Updated 18/03/2017 09:12 GMT

If you ever find yourself at the University of Roehampton, be sure to pop into the Hive. It's a lovely café and the coffee is delicious. But most importantly of all - and this is what makes it different from the other outlets on campus - it's a student-led social enterprise based on local, sustainable food. And it's incredibly successful, expanding due to popular demand after just one year in business.

This is fantastic work which NUS wants to build on. Today, I'm really excited to be able to announce that we're one of the organisations involved in Our Bright Future. Supported by the Big Lottery Fund, this is a portfolio of projects empowering young people to shape a healthier planet alongside a vibrant economy. Our campaign Student Eats will help set up over 60 new student-led food enterprises, connecting thousands of people with local food, while providing students with vital employability skills.

We know how effective and powerful these projects can be because we've got great examples across the student movement already.

At the Hive, ingredients for their soups, salads and sandwiches are grown metres away on campus by dozens of student volunteers. They make links with local charities to develop catering skills for young people turning away from gang culture. They even have their own chickens, also tended by student volunteers, providing cruelty free, zero miles eggs for their weekly farmers' market.

That's just one example of the powerful movement for local, sustainable food across our campuses and communities. There's tons more. The University of Newcastle Students' Union has created its own sustainable brewery. The University of Gloucestershire Students' Union has founded its own honey, cider and chilli jam companies with produce grown on campus. And dozens more have their own growing spaces, veg box schemes, and cooperatives.

These projects provide skills, bridge campuses to their wider communities, and bring new groups of students together. This is what we're going to be scaling up over the next five years as part of Our Bright Future.

It's more important than ever that we help young people shape a fairer, more sustainable food system. This isn't just a nice hobby. Food provides the backdrop to some of today's most important fights for social justice. As we face the possibility of trade agreements like TTIP - which will give more power to corporations for the sake of profit over people and planet - taking back control of the food system isn't only good for the environment. It protects our food sovereignty.

That's not to mention the problems we're seeing here in the UK. Look at the rising spectre of food banks. In 2009, the Trussell Trust - one of our foremost networks of food banks - gave out 25,000 emergency food packages. Last year they helped over a million people. This is a national crisis of food poverty, indicative of a wider problem of people struggling to make ends meet - students included.

Student-led food enterprises can be a vibrant part of the answers to these problems - from food poverty in the local community, to corporate takeover of food production. These projects offer a glimpse of the low-carbon, localised food networks we badly need to see. And we're giving thousands of students the skills they need to build these alternatives, putting our movement at the heart of the sustainable food revolution.

If you're a student who wants to start a food enterprise, you can express your interest here.