On Friday 17 February, Clive Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield South East and Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee visited a sustainable food organisation in Sheffield – just weeks before the Government is due to announce where it will allocate new spending for “good causes”, some of which is hoped be used to support community businesses in the North of England.
The visit comes as the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, which Mr Betts chairs, considers evidence it has received as part of its inquiry into funding for levelling up. It was arranged by Big Society Capital – the UK’s leading financial institution dedicated to social impact.
The Labour stalwart met with Rene Meijer, CEO at Food Works - a social enterprise which used social investment to kick start its critical work intercepting food waste and distributing it to local people on contribute-what-you-can-afford basis through market, cafes, and ready meals.
Now the organisation has grown it intercepts 500 tonnes of food waste every year, and serves more than 5,000 people every month across its cafes and market - a number which continues to grow.
Later in the day, Food Works also received a visit from Councillor Abtisam Mohamad, who Labour has selected to stand as the next parliamentary candidate in Sheffield Central.
The visit comes just before the government is due to announce how it will allocate the English portion of nearly £1 billion of dormant assets that could be used to help level up the UK.
A significant portion of the funds are hoped to be allocated to social investment to invest in social enterprises and community businesses serving disadvantaged communities including in the North of England. Analysis by the Social Investment Forum finds that 43% of social investment deals have gone to Levelling Up Priority 1 Areas, totalling £520 million.
The Dormant Assets scheme was first launched over ten years ago has already unlocked more than £800m for good causes across the UK by channelling long-forgotten funds from dormant bank and building society accounts towards good causes.
The first allocation of funding led to the creation of Big Society Capital – which has helped grow the total amount of capital invested in social impact in the UK tenfold in ten years.
Clive Betts MP said: “Food Works is an incredible success – with a vision to continue going forwards. What I’ve learned today is the importance of dormant assets in supporting social enterprises to achieve their future visions. We shouldn’t just sit back and say what’s happened so far [with the dormant asset money] is great – but now, with even greater economic pressures, we should be thinking about other resources available.”
Rene Meijer, Chief Executive, Food Works said: “Social impact investment has enabled us to deliver the million meals worth of sustainable food we deliver to the city every year – a mission which we know will become ever more critical as the climate emergency and cost-of-living crisis play out. Responding to the current crisis requires urgent action from everyone, and socially-motivated funding sources like these will be increasingly important in enabling community-led businesses to continue working with local people.”
Rachel Veitch-Straw, Investment Manager, Key Fund, said: “We are proud to have supported Food Works throughout its incredible journey as a social enterprise – from first becoming established with just a few customers to serving thousands across Sheffield and beyond each month. With support from relatively small amounts of investment, Food Works has continued to grow and thrive – a real achievement at a time when many businesses are faced with cost-of-living challenges. Without the initial backing from dormant assets funding, none of this would have been possible - so we hope to see further funding like this being allocated towards social investment.”
James Westhead, Head of Engagement, Big Society Capital, said: “It has been brilliant to see up close how such an important social enterprise using money originally from dormant assets is making a huge difference to people’s ability to access healthy, nutritious meals. It is vitally important that a significant portion of the government’s new dormant funds will be allocated to social investment to continue this critical work, which is needed more than ever during the cost-of-living emergency.”
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About Big Society Capital
Big Society Capital exists to improve the lives of people in the UK through social impact investing. We unite ideas, expertise and capital to create investment solutions for the UK’s social challenges, supporting organisations that deliver both positive social impact and sustainable financial returns. So far, we have helped channel £2.7 billion* into investments tackling a wide range of problems such as homelessness, mental ill health and childhood obesity. To widen access to social impact investing, we have partnered with Schroders, a global asset and wealth manager, to launch the listed Schroder BSC Social Impact Trust plc. As the portfolio manager, we provide investors with high impact investments that contribute to solutions to social challenges alongside targeting long-term capital growth and income.*As at end of Q2 2022.
About the Community Enterprise Growth Plan
The Community Enterprise Growth Plan would use the social investment infrastructure built over the last ten years in new ways to invest in community enterprises – the community-based businesses, social enterprises and trading charities taking entrepreneurial approaches to tackling social problems.
The Community Enterprise Growth Plan will deliver lasting economic and social benefits to local communities, creating jobs and growth in communities affected by economic decline. It is supported by a broad coalition of business groups and social enterprise and charity representative bodies including Big Society Capital, Social Enterprise UK and Access – The Foundation for Social Investment.
About Food Works
Food Works is a social enterprise building a more fair and sustainable food system. We use the principles of mutual aid to grow food, redirect food waste, and run community kitchens and cafes. Our 3 hubs and 18 community partners in the city provide more than a million meals worth of food to the city every year while saving 40,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.