Five New Radicals of the New Food Economy?

Written for the Food Assembly.

Innovation charity Nesta’s 2014 New Radicals list showcases 50 of the most innovative charitable or commercial ideas the world has to offer. The food and agriculture category has doubled since the list was first compiled, from three in 2013 to six in 2014, giving a growing sense that the new food economy is well and truly here. But the kinds of new thinking seen below also give some inkling of just where and how the gaps left by public sector cuts might be filled.

Bio-bean

Bio-bean is the newest company to make Nesta’s list, founded just one year ago in London, and is looking to make something of the 200,000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds produced annually in the capital. Graduate co-founders Benjamin Harriman and Arthur Kay have already turned more than 30,000 tonnes of it into fuel, “helping to prevent emissions of methane, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide” and are hoping to export the idea to coffee-guzzlers in the US and Europe.

Mazí Mas

Mazí Mas puts a socially responsible twist on the trend for pop-up dining in London by employing migrant and refugee women to come and cook food from their communities. Founder Nikandre Kopcke was inspired by her godmother back in 2012 to set up the social enterprise after seeing her efforts to help migrant women skill up. There are currently six female chefs who have made it from as far away as Brazil, Ethiopia and the Philippines to serve specialist dishes to sell-out crowds.

The Super Kitchen

Unemployed single mum Marsha Smith wanted to provide a communal space for families in her home city, Nottingham, to have a cheap and healthy meal: and with just £1,000, the Super Kitchen got cooking. Marsha’s social eating model, which has so far used six tonnes of food headed for landfill, has taken her on to present a TED Talk.

Box Chicken

Fast-food shops are the love of many children’s lives but the bane of many parents’, and with little power to prevent them from opening near schools, community venture Box Chicken has stepped in to provide a healthier option. Giving it her seal of approval, Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the British Medical Journal, says: “Rather than restricting takeaway food we should seek to transform it, by making healthy food as visible, tasty, and cheap as unhealthy food.”

Casserole Club

Given that ‘meals on wheels’ provision has dropped by 63% in England, there will be ever-greater demand for social enterprises like the Casserole Club. The organisation aims to connect great cooks with lonely or vulnerable people who need a meal; 80 per cent of its diners to date have been over the age of 80. It costs around £4.90 for councils to provide a meal, so if 100 diners get on average two meals a week from a neighbour, Casserole Club will have saved councils at least £50,960 a year. The service is now coming to Tower Hamlets, Barnet and Staffordshire.

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