Building sustainable online food distribution systems

21st February 2017

Sustainable Food Cities and the Open Food Network (OFN) co-organised a webinar on the 21st of February where we heard from project leads in Plymouth, Oxford and Preston who are using OFN to strengthen existing local food projects. Several Sustainable Food Cities are realising the benefits of the Open Food Network (OFN). They are setting up online shopfronts for food co-ops, markets, shops, food hubs and food banks which are making local food accessible and affordable, whilst helping to build resilient food economies around the cities.

The webinar included an interactive demonstration of the OFN system including the features which make it such a flexible and universal solution to many of the issues relating to local food distribution. Here are a few links about OFN to give you some background:

o Summary of Open Food Network (OFN) services
o A brief video about how OFN works
o The ethics and background of OFN
o The economic and environmental benefits of OFN
o How OFN is being rolled out in the UK including details of our not-for-profit nature and how we cover the costs of OFN services as a platform cooperative
o The OFN UK map showing producers and hubs who are set up already


Alizee Marceau - Welcome and introduction to Sustainable Food Cities
Nick Weir – Introduction and demonstration of Open Food Network
Sara Rock – Tamar Valley Food Hub
Kay Johnson – Preston food hubs
Hannah Fenton – Good Food Oxford food enterprises


Listen to a recording and view presentations here

Additional resources mentioned in the webinar

Selling allotment surpluses

Platform co-ops – how they work

Lessons from StroudCo Food Hub

Benefits overview of OFN

  • The OFN system is ‘free’. It is open source software so anyone can use it free of charge. However OFN (UK) CIC has set up an ‘instance’ of the software on a not-for profit, platform co-operative basis and is inviting everyone to share the costs of running this instance. Details here.
  • OFN allows shopfront managers to choose whether or not to add a mark-up on produce supplied by local producers. This enables enterprises such as food co-ops and food hubs to make an income to pay the managers. Most of the shopfronts now trading on OFN are financially self-sufficient after an initial period of relying on volunteer support and/or funding. Some shopfronts reach financial self-sufficiency within 6 months; others take longer. OFN (UK) CIC offers facilitation support to help local food enterprises make best use of the range of features built into OFN.
  • And then there are all the wider economic and environmental benefits – read more here

For more details on OFN contact , phone 01453 840037 or sign up here for monthly updates


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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