Getting ‘surplus food’ to those in need during a cost-of-living crisis: The scaling-up of social eating in the East Midlands

Elderly people sat around a table eating Christmas dinner
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Tuesday 13 December 2022

02:00 PM - 03:30 PM





Event details

This event will discuss the factors shaping the success of social eating projects as a means of tackling food insecurity.


Recent policy briefings from the Food Foundation, the Food Ethics Council and IPSOS all call for greater support for the community food sector in the UK. Our research responds to these calls with policy-relevant findings that give practical insight into this dynamic sector, and current innovations within surplus food services.

Our research in 2020 showed how practices of partnership, procedure and performances of care were crucial facets of the community food sector’s response to the pandemic. Following our policy recommendations Nottinghamshire County invested funding including into ‘social eating’ projects. We were invited to undertake research into what enables and constrains the development of these types of services.

Using a multi-method approach and supported by research partner, FareShare Midlands, we observed and engaged with over 200 customers alongside The Secret Kitchen as they provided ‘pop up’ social eating meals across 8 Nottinghamshire sites.

A post event webinar and survey responses from the new social eating groups added to our findings.

These data collection exercises created a rich set of insights into the complexities and opportunities that arise as community food groups attempt to provide affordable, nutritious and sociable meals. Two main findings from the second phase of research are discussed in this seminar - practices of ‘know how’ and ‘making do’, which have implications for food security, public health and food carbon neutrality policy development in the region.

Our research partner, FareShare Midlands, will also discuss their new meals production service and reflect upon the journey to scale up surplus meal services which were also taking place during the research period.


Dr Marsha Smith is a sociologist at the Centre for Business in Society at Coventry University. She is an expert on modern eating practices, sustainable consumption, surplus food-use and food insecurity.

Pierce O’Connor is FareShare Midlands Projects and Programmes Manager and has been developing a new surplus meal production service in partnership with Nottingham City Council.