17 | May | 14

Richard Johnson

The Good Guys

Here at British Street Food, we’ve always seen street food as a vehicle for social change. Richard Johnson wrote about the leading lights of street food social philanthropy here in the Guardian, but that was two years ago. How have things progressed? On 25 May, the Sunday of the Bank Holiday weekend, street food traders from all over the South will descend upon The Showground in Ardingly for the South of England Food & Drink Festival — and it’s a Who’s Who of ‘the good guys’. So, rest assured, there won’t be a battery hen in sight.

The pizza team at Munch Movement get their ingredients at Big Barn – a social enterprise set up to encourage local farmers and encourage sustainable and organic production methods. And there’s more. For every pizza Munch Movement sell they provide a week’s worth of school meals for a sub-Saharan child in need – achieved through a partnership with the charity Mary’s Meals. Their van has been converted to LPG, reducing CO2 emissions by 25% and NOx emissions by 95%. Their oven is DEFRA approved to reduce smoke emissions and the wood they use is 100% natural, sustainable and renewable.

Another trader who is committed to supporting local and sustainably produced food is Julia Feakes who serves up incredible lamb dishes from a converted shepherds hut. Think lamb kofta, chilli, hot pot, burgers and patties – and even a whole lamb spit roast. Julia has no issues proving the traceability of her meat – all her lamb comes from her own traditional mixed farm in West Sussex, which she has farmed with her husband for the past 30 years. Her belief is that happy, healthy sheep that graze on well managed, fresh pastures, produce top quality meat. The furthest her lambs travel is to the abattoir 3 miles away.
Food Rocks have also taken an ethical stance with the drinks on offer. In 2007, Alison Hall of Happy Bean Coffee Company was a single mum, working as a Marketing Manager and life was good. Then she went to a conference in Norway, heard the most inspirational speaker from Uganda, came home and set up a charity (Seeds for Development) to support farmers in post conflict northern Uganda. Starting with an idea to sponsor one farmer, it has grown to supporting more than 1,600 farmers by lending them seeds. Over the years she has come to admire and respect the farmers more than anyone in the world. Then she had the idea to grow coffee – from seed and on a commercial scale. Something that had never been done before in northern Uganda. She planted 28,000 Robusta seeds, taught the farmers how to prepare the land and watched the coffee grow. With her marketing hat on, she tried to make a market for her ethical and happy coffee. All fabulous until she was told that in the UK we drink Arabica coffee not Robusta. She had planted the WRONG coffee…

Luckily, another of their farming groups over the mountains in the West Nile region grow Arabica and she went to meet them. The good news was that their coffee is delicious, the bad news was that they were completely disorganised. Always looking for opportunities, she realised it created the opportunity to support them in becoming professional coffee producers. So then she had two projects, no coffee and an increasing demand for our coffee in the UK. There was only one thing to do – take the voluntary redundancy package from her employer and focus on her goal – working with the farmers selling their delicious ethical coffee whilst sharing their amazing stories. So off she went again – on a mission to find an organised, ethical and organic coffee co-operative in Uganda who would supply her with coffee, which she would sell and use the profits to support the other two projects…and that’s when she found Bukonzo Joint – the coffee she is selling today!

You can find Munch Movement, Shepherds Hut and Happy Bean Coffee at The South of England Food & Drink Festival on May 25 alongside 30 other Street Food traders serving up everything from sous-vide steaks to Korean BBQ.

There are also 80 stalls of artisan produce, cooking demos hosted by MasterChef: The Professionals winner Steven Edwards and cookery workshops for children.

Tickets, more details and great prizes at www.foodrockssouth.co.uk