Press release: National awards for community food projects announced

Free repro - please credit Paul Sherwood The Irish Food Writers’ Guild 2016 IFWG Community Food Awards held at the Cliff Townhouse, Dublin. The IFWG Community Food Awards celebrate and recognise social responsibility in the food sector in Ireland.  Winners have been chosen for their community-oriented work in areas such as food education, conservation, sustainability or for their charity or other community programmes.

credit Paul Sherwood
The Irish Food Writers’ Guild 2016 IFWG 

An organisation that embodies and protects the richness of Ireland’s agricultural legacy has today been announced as the winner of the 2016 Irish Food Writers’ Guild Community Food Awards.

 The Irish Seed Savers Association, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary, conserves and distributes rare and heritage seed varieties and encourages the skills of saving your own seeds. The Association plays an active and crucial role in helping keep Irish agricultural biodiversity alive and well at a time when sustainability is on both political and social agendas, not only in Ireland but at a global level.


The Irish Food Writers’ Guild (IFWG) Community Food Awards recognise and celebrate the contributions made by organisations, enterprises and individuals to furthering social responsibility and reward stellar community efforts in the food arena.  This is the second year of these annual awards and the IFWG is committed to recognising people who make a real difference to food and food practices in Ireland, primarily at a community level. This year’s awards were made possible with the support of Slow Food Ireland.

Entries to the awards can include food education, environmental or sustainability projects, food charity programmes, community initiatives or social entrepreneurialism. The awards are open to national, local and community programmes that contribute to the promotion of sustainable food and food practices in Ireland.


According to the judges, without the work of the Irish Seed Savers Association we would have already lost much of our food heritage. Its Education Project on Agricultural Biodiversity will have lifelong benefits for the young citizens with whom it engages and its long-term impact on Ireland’s policies as a food-producing nation could be immense.


Four other enterprises were recognised at the awards:

  • Highly Commended: The Organic Centre in Leitrim, which has been a pioneer in providing training and education, information and demonstrations of organic gardening, growing and sustainable living since 1995.
  • Commended: Loaf Catering, a catering company in Belfast that works with people with learning difficulties or autism and whose profits go to helping support those with difficulties join the workforce.
  • Commended: OURganic Gardens, which, from its Donegal base, helps new and existing gardeners embrace organic methods to cultivate their gardening practices.
  • Commended: Cork Food Policy Councils Edible Greening Initiative, which was initiated to teach people how to grow food in up-cycled containers and to highlight the health, environmental and aesthetic benefits of growing food.

Aoife Carrigy, chairperson of the IFWG said, “These awards are very special as they recognise the broader significance of food within our communities and society: as a source of nourishment and enjoyment, and as a connector between people, but also as a birthright of citizens in terms of the need for equal access to good food produced in a sustainable manner.

“We have a shared responsibility to protect the future of our food. These Community Food Awards celebrate projects we believe have made positive impacts, with an emphasis on inclusivity and a commitment to people and passion before profit. The awards aim to highlight some of the excellent work being done on both large and small scales within our communities, and to say thank you to those who carry out this often thankless work.

“This year’s winner is a national treasure that we feel must be nurtured and supported. At a time when international pressure is building around trade agreements such as CETA and TTIP – the passing of which could have serious detrimental effects on many aspects of our lives including our food sovereignty and food production system – the existence of organisations such as the Irish Seed Savers is more important than ever.”


WINNER: Irish Seed Savers Association, Co. Clare

The ethos of the Irish Seed Savers Association is simple but sound: working together to conserve Irish biodiversity. Founded in 1991 by Anita Hayes, work initially started on a small farm in Co. Carlow before moving to Scarriff in 1996. The aim of the Irish Seed Savers Association is to conserve and distribute wonderful rare and heritage varieties, as well as to encourage the skills of saving your own seed and empowering people to do this in their own gardens, small holdings or farms.

The Association’s Education Project was submitted for an IFWG Community Food Award; it aims to promote a greater awareness of agricultural biodiversity for children.  The Education Project was created with the support of the Genetic Advisory Board of the Department of Agriculture and is a positive response to the new Social, Environmental and Scientific Education syllabus recently introduced to national schools. Children visiting the Association’s centre and participating in the Education Project are made aware of the importance of agricultural diversity, creating a more responsible upcoming generation who have the knowledge and skills to engage with and promote responsible practices.



HIGHLY COMMENDED: The Organic Centre, Co. Leitrim

The Organic Centre was established in 1995 as a non profit-making company with charitable status. The centre is located on a 19-acre site in Rossinver, and operates from an award-winning, ecologically designed building with a grass roof. The aim of the centre is to provide training and education, information and demonstrations of organic gardening, growing and sustainable living. Developments at the Organic Centre include two demonstration gardens, nine polytunnels of protected cropping, a wetland sewage disposal system, compost display and an orchard with 50 varieties of apple.  The Centre’s projects help anyone who wants to become involved to live better through sustainable gardening and good food.

The judges were particularly impressed with the pioneering work of the Organic Centre and the way in which it brings people together from both sides of the border to learn and garden together.


COMMENDED: Loaf Catering, Belfast

Loaf Catering is a corporate catering business and social enterprise delivering fresh food to homes and businesses in the greater Belfast area. Using local suppliers whenever possible, Loaf Catering is also an accredited training site, providing training and work experience placements for catering trainees with learning difficulties or autism. All profits go to the NOW Group to help support people with barriers to learning and employment join the workforce. Loaf wants communities to be more connected with what they buy and eat and for every £1 invested in loaf, £8 is returned in social value. The judges were impressed with the strong, independent feedback they received about Loaf and felt it represented a model social enterprise that others could (and should) follow.


COMMENDED: OURganic Gardens, Co. Donegal

OURganic Gardens is a network of community gardens in Donegal. Since its creation in 2013, this social enterprise, run by Joanne Butler, has enabled over 200 participants across ten community gardens to attend gardening classes in their local communities. It also hosts networking events that enable participants to share seeds, skills and stories. OURganic Gardens has been instrumental in educating new and existing gardeners in how to embrace organic methods to cultivate their gardening practices.  Joanne also runs several community gardens as well as a FETAC course in growing vegetables organically, empowering and connecting people across the county.


COMMENDED: Cork Food Policy Council, Co. Cork

The Cork Food Policy Council (CFPC) was formed to work towards the achievement of a fairer, healthier, more secure and sustainable food system within the city and throughout the region. The Council operates as a partnership between representatives of the community, food retail, farming, fishing, restaurant/catering, education, environmental and health sectors and local authorities.

The CFPC was commended for its Edible Greening Project, which was initiated to teach people how to grow food in up-cycled containers and to highlight three things: that anyone can grow their own food, that food is as beautiful as flowers for greening the city and that growing food in urban environments has multiple health and environmental benefits. This initiative has many positive impacts, encouraging community engagement, creating conversations around sustainable food, recovering the central place of plants in our diet and highlighting that everyone has a responsibility to connect with their food supply.

The winners were presented with their 2016 IFWG Community Food Award at an event hosted at the Cliff Townhouse in Dublin and supported by Slow Food Ireland and Poacher’s Tonic, with thanks to Blackwater Gin and Gunpowder Gin.


The judging process

  • Individuals, businesses and organisations can nominate themselves or others for an IFWG Community Food Award
  • Applications go through a two-stage judging process and following an initial vetting review by an expert panel from the IFWG, entries are shortlisted
  • All members of the IFWG are then invited to vote at the second stage
  • Judging criteria:

o   Social impact – immediate, local and potential for broader impact

o   Clarity and purpose

o   Is the organisation generous or protective of its own territory?

o   Is the organisation inclusive or elitist?

  • The awards were formerly known as the Social Responsibility Awards

About the IFWG

The Irish Food Writers’ Guild was formed in 1990 to promote high professional standards of knowledge and practice among writers about food, nutrition, food history and other allied matters and to assist in the forging of links and networks between professionals in the food industry.


Twitter: @foodguild  │    #IFWGCommunityAward │

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