August 16 2016By Charlotte Knight
We caught up with Katie Roche from 2015 NT100 project The Food Assembly, to talk tech for good and to hear how they are creating a fairer food economy with digital technology.
What is The Food Assembly and how does it work?
The Food Assembly is an award-winning initiative that brings people together to support local farmers and foodmakers.
Every Food Assembly is run by a local organiser who opens a weekly online market in which people order their food. Then there is a weekly collection where customers pick up the food directly from the food producers at a local venue.
There are many many benefits. Firstly, the food is ordered online so farmers know exactly how much to bring to the collection each week – there is no food waste! All the food travels the distance of 28 miles meaning there are less food miles.
The model works like this: the organiser gets 8% of the weekly sales, The Food Assembly gets 8% and the farmer and foodmaker get over 80%. Lastly, this means that for every £1 spent through a Food Assembly, 90p stays in the local economy.
The Food Assembly is about supporting British farmers who put the food on our plates, and enabling British people to associate with the food in a healthier way.
What was it like to be featured in the 2015 NT100?
It was fantastic for us to be recognised as a 'tech for good' company, and to be beside so many global tech projects making lasting change to communities and solving quite complicated social issues.
At the end of the day, what we do is simply provide technology and support for anybody, anywhere to start their own local food community. But as we do that we are also helping to fix an extremely complicated issue – our broken food supply chain.
We are so lucky to be working towards creating a better food system for the UK – one in which we have happy farmers and happy healthy people!
What’s happened at The Food Assembly this year?
2016 has been amazing – we've grown The Food Assembly in the UK with our first launch in Scotland, Brighton (in Fat Boy Slim's Big Beach Cafe!), and a very successful Food Assembly on the Isle of Man.
We have had people from all over the UK reaching out to discover how The Food Assembly can work for them. We've been working with Jamie Oliver's Food Foundation, alongside The Big Lottery's Big Lunch, and food waste app Olio. Oh, and we've launched The Food Assembly app!
What does the future hold for Food Assembly?
Lots more expanding in the UK – making our technology even more efficient. Helping more consumers' money reach the right people; enabling people to eat more local British food; cutting out the middle man, and enabling farmers to do what they do best – farm good healthy food and get paid fairly for it.
Why do you think it’s important to celebrate tech for good?
Often people link technology to isolation, privacy issues etc, or they think that 'tech' is a clicky word only for people 'in the know'. Tech is for everyone, and its benefits are immense. You just have to look at so many amazing things technology is doing – for the environment, for health – it's helping solve some of the world's greatest problems.
What types of social tech projects would you like to see come through in the 2016 NT100?
I really admire FoodCloud – the Irish company that offers a way for businesses to donate surplus food to charities within their communities. The founders have worked so hard to get it off the ground.
Another admirable one (wish-I-created-it-myself kinda idea) is PublicStuff, an app for people in a city to submit real-time requests where they live, such as graffiti, gas leaks, potholes etc - issues we can all relate to! Over 200 cities in the US are using it and it really makes it easy for local government and communities to connect better.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes through in this year’s NT100, don’t forget to nominate your favourite tech for good projects at http://socialtech.org.uk/nominate/