Food sharing initiatives have been set up around the world to transform the sustainability of our food systems. These include national networks of community gardens encouraging people to grow food together in Ireland; apps for meeting and dining with home chefs in Singapore; and online platforms that reduce food waste via peer-to-peer connections.
But what difference are they really making?
To help answer that question, the ERC-funded SHARECITY project, led by Professor Anna Davies – Principal Investigator in the School of Natural Sciences at Trinity College Dublin – has developed SHARE IT – a first-of-its-kind online toolkit launching today [Monday 27th January 2020] to help food sharing initiatives around the world document and communicate the impact of their activities on the sustainability of food systems.
Professor Anna Davies said:
“Our research has found that food sharing initiatives rarely report on their sustainability impacts in a systematic manner despite having clear social, economic or environmental goals. This is because current sustainability impact assessment tools are just not designed to help them and these initiatives have limited time, money and skills to design their own systems. Through our SHARECITY project we were able to work with these initiatives to co-design a more accessible and appropriate tool – SHARE IT.”
“SHARE IT is the result of a long-term, interdisciplinary, international, collaborative approach we have established with non-academic partners on the SHARECITY project. Initiatives in Dublin, London, Berlin and Singapore to name a few are already registered with the toolkit and we hope that many more will participate following the launch today. The project is a prime example of the vital role that geographical research plays in understanding and transforming unsustainable practices around food.”
SHARE IT is a free online toolkit which helps food sharing initiatives around the world understand and communicate the impact of their activities on the sustainability of food systems. SHARE-IT is based on more than 18 months of intensive collaboration with food sharing initiatives internationally and has three functions, The Toolshed, The Talent Garden and The Greenhouse.
The Toolshed is designed to help food sharing initiatives create a bespoke sustainability impact assessment report of their operations. It contains 34 indicators that food sharing initiatives can choose from, as detailed in a recently published open access article in Environmental Impact Assessment Review. The Toolshed includes metrics for indicating the social impact and personal wellbeing (e.g. reducing loneliness, building stronger social networks) that are often ignored in other assessment tools. The Toolshed also allows users to easily and simply create a short summary report of these impacts for communication purposes.
Dr Stephen Mackenzie, lead postdoctoral researcher on SHARE-IT, Trinity, said:
“The Toolshed was created to give food sharing initiatives a simple but rigorous means to communicate their important economic, environmental and social impacts and link these directly to the UN sustainable development goals. The long term aim of SHARE IT is to inform funders and policy makers of the impacts that food sharing creates – many of which so often go unseen and unreported.”
The Talent Garden allows initiatives to share their food sharing stories, endorsements, images and videos which document their impacts in easily accessible ways. Summary reports from the Toolshed can be posted here as well. This multimedia arm of SHARE IT is public facing and can help generate more food sharing participants and even inspire people to start their own food sharing initiative.
The Greenhouse provides a portal for people interested in food sharing to connect with others, share experiences and provide support for others. According to Professor Davies, “The Greenhouse is like Tinder for food sharing.”
Aoibheann O’Brien, co-founder and Partnerships Director of international social enterprise FoodCloud, whose vision is of a world where no good food goes to waste, is a co-design partner with SHARE IT. She said:
“Being involved in the development of SHARE IT has helped us to consider how we communicate the impact of FoodCloud beyond the tonnes of food we rescue. We envisage great potential for SHARE IT to help us and the hundreds of charities that use our services to communicate and improve our impacts in a holistic way, which accounts for the human stories and the Sustainable Development Goals we are addressing.”
John O’Donoghue, chairperson of the Dublin community growers network, added:
“Community gardens started growing as a movement in Dublin around 15 years ago, playing an important role in empowering communities around the city in growing some of their own food sustainably. I see the SHARE IT Toolkit as an opportunity to create awareness among both community gardeners and decision makers of the important impacts across a broad range of sustainability issues”.
Professor Linda Doyle, Dean of Research at Trinity, said:
“Projects such as SHARECITY and tools like SHARE IT illustrate the important ways Trinity works with the public to meet key societal challenges. They also illustrate how the research we do in Trinity responds to challenges laid out in the UN sustainable development goals.”
Anyone interested in using SHARE IT to make a sustainability impact report for an initiative or who would just like to find out more should see https://shareit.sharecity.ie/.