The Sustainable Food Cities (SFC) Network is a national initiative funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation which encourages cross-sector partnerships to improve the sustainability of local urban food systems. Local partnerships consider all aspects of sustainability and health and consist of a number of separate local initiatives which focus on a range of key issues, including:

  1. Promoting healthy and sustainable food to the public
  2. Tackling food poverty, diet-related ill health and access to affordable healthy food
  3. Building community food knowledge, skills, resources and projects
  4. Promoting a vibrant and diverse sustainable food economy
  5. Transforming catering and food procurement
  6. Reducing waste and the ecological footprint of the food system

There is a growing need to broaden these local city-scale initiatives, in order to identify and evaluate initiatives, share best practice and increase the geographical size of food system being considered. York successfully secured Sustainable Food City status in March 2018. Dr James Stockdale, an N8 AgriFood Knowledge Exchange Fellow, has been leading the academic input to the initiative. N8AgriFood is ideally placed to develop links between different SFCs, and is now aiming to provide research which will support the further development of regional-scale sustainable food systems across the North of England.


On campus, a new University-wide group has been initiated, York-Local AgriFood and Sustainability Stakeholders (York-LASS). A virtual network for staff who are directly engaged in local stakeholder groups in order to maximise the University’s involvement and impact in the city.

At a city level, Dr Stockdale is a core member of the Steering Group for York’s SFC, ‘Good Food York’, where he has initiated events and action planning workshops to help develop a structure for long term stability and activity of the group. He is also working with the York/North Yorkshire/East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership (Y/NY/ER LEP) to develop a food strategy for their Circular Economy initiatives, and to increase the resilience and sustainability of rural farming business in the region as part of their Grow Yorkshire initiative.

Regionally, several N8 AgriFood-funded grants are focused on Sustainable Food Cities and are increasingly providing links between different SFCs. Activity across the region has been highlighted during discussions with the SFC Network as a potential development of ‘Sustainable Food Regions’.

Future planned activity includes a York Citizen’s Food Assembly for local stakeholders from all sectors to develop interventions and policy measures to help increase the sustainability of food with the city. This will also provide an opportunity for the outcomes to be directly reported to DEFRA to inform their new national Food Strategy.

Key outputs 
  • The external launch of Good Food York, attended by over 100 people from all sectors in York.
  • Good Food York 2019 Action Planning Workshop – catalysing 13 new initiatives across York. Ideas are varied and include: the establishment of a Community Shop in York; trial project to increase the nutritional content of food in schools, supporting a new generation of food growers in the region, establishing local facilities for the preservation of locally grown fruit.
  • Two workshops held in Leeds and York, led by Les Firbank (Leeds University), to identify qualitative indicators of sustainable urban food systems.
  • Initiation and facilitation of a food cluster with the Local Enterprise Partnership (York/North Yorkshire/East Riding LEP) at a recent Circular Economy Jam (25th March) which has established a cross-sector group (collaborators include food producers, farmers market promotors, North Yorkshire County Council, commercial waste company and York and Hull SFC partnerships) to develop a circular food system for York.
  • Sustainable Food Cities session at the upcoming N8 AgriFood Conference in October 2019.
  • Secured funding for a York Citizen Food Assembly in November 2019. This is the final event in a number of food-focused events in the York Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Sciences which will contribute towards a ‘Citizens Report’ for Defra to be used in their development of a UK Food Strategy.
Key collaborators

Maddy Power – Health Sciences, York (and York Food Poverty Alliance)

Les Firbank – Biology, Leeds (and Leeds Food Partnership)

Caroline Wilcock – N8 AgriFood Secretariat, York

Rosie Baker – Health Sciences, York (and York Food Poverty Alliance, and The Real Junk Food Cafe, York, and CYC Councillor (Green Party))

Sonja Woodcock – Leeds (and Leeds Food Partnership)

Bob Doherty – The York Management School and DEFRA Senior Fellow

Adrian Lovett- Chair, Good Food York

Katie Thomas- Low Carbon & Circular Economy Lead, York/North Yorkshire/East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership

Ian Collins – Grow Yorkshire Lead, Y/NY/ER LEP

Leon Ballin – Network Manager, Sustainable Food Cities

Andy Griffiths – Head of Value Chain Sustainability, Nestle (and Company Shop/Community Shop)

Steve Cann – Director, Sustainable Futures

Hilary Hamer – Chair, Hull Food Partnership (and Food4Hull)

Richard McGowan – Managing Director, Biomimicry

Joe Fennerty – Founder, Food Circle

If you would like further information on how you can get involved with this cluster please contact us

*With thanks to Barry Male for images