Setting up a Food Partnership

Stakeholder representation

The starting point for most food partnerships is to bring stakeholders together to share thinking and explore a common vision or purpose and aims. To become a member of the SFC Network the food partnership needs to include representatives from the public sector, third sector and business sector*.

Public sector representatives tend to come from a range of local authority departments (e.g. public health, economy, communities, environment, and equalities) or from the NHS (hospital trusts, clinical commissioning groups, and community health services). You may also want to engage with local universities. Third sector representatives should come from a wide range of organisations either food related (e.g. food coops, food banks, growing groups, cookery groups, city farms) or from infrastructure organisations (e.g. council for voluntary service) or networks representing food projects or environmental concerns (community food growing networks, Transition movement etc.). Social enterprises fall into this sector and are useful members to have on board too. Business sector representatives could come from farming, catering, retail, food distribution etc.

Any partnership, especially an emerging one, will be unlikely to have a ‘perfect’ membership with high-level influential members from the public, third and business sectors. This should always be the aim but membership will vary as priorities, people and politics change. A new partnership may well be best having a handful of committed members that can drive action forward rather than a large less committed group. Experience shows it takes time to develop the trust needed for strong partnerships.

Top Tips

  • Initial meetings are about establishing relationships between the key individuals.
  • They can be fairly informal but focused on sharing: information; perspectives on issues and suggestions on overall vision and actions.
  • Emerging food partnerships may find it useful to look at the SFC ‘Food Partnership Structure Guide which captures the stories of how existing SFC members have evolved along with guidance on choosing your structure.

* Engaging with businesses is an area that many food partnerships struggle with. SFC Network is therefore happy to accept food partnerships with no or little business representation so long as there is a commitment to engage businesses as the partnership develops and this is reflected in the action plan and terms of reference.

Steering group

Once a broad range of stakeholders have been engaged, the next step for many food partnerships is to nominate a smaller group of people who are going to actively work to take the partnership forward. This group could be called the steering group, steering committee or management committee for example. The process for developing a steering group along with top tips has been covered in detail in our Food Partnership Structure Guide (section 5.1).


Leon Ballin
Sustainable Food Cities

Sustainable Food Cities is a partnership programme run by

Soil Association

Food Matters

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
Sustainable Food Cities is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation 

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