Sustain receives National Lottery funding to help make climate friendly diets open to all

The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, has awarded Sustain and partners from across the UK an initial three-year grant of around £1.5m to explore how climate and nature friendly food can be affordable and accessible to all, under the new Bridging the Gap programme.

Sustain, Growing Communities and Alexandra Rose Charity (ARC), will work together with Food Sense Wales, Nourish Scotland and Nourish Northern Ireland will bring together local organisations and trading enterprises. Together, they will run pilots in all UK nations to overcome pricing and other barriers, making climate and nature friendly foods available to people on lower incomes.

“We want to ensure we transition from food aid to food trade’ to provide healthy, affordable, planet-friendly food for all,” said Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive of national food and farming charity Sustain.

“Food that is good for people and the planet, benefits communities and supports decent livelihoods is currently more expensive than food that is bad for health and produced in ways that damage the planet. If we’re serious about tackling the combined crises of the cost of living, climate emergency and social justice head on, we need to make healthy, climate friendly diets the norm and available to all.“

The Bridging the Gap programme will learn from and build on locally based small-scale initiatives with promising solutions, such as the Good Food Box run by Granville Community Kitchen based in North-West London. This uses a sliding scale of price to help those on lower incomes. Another example is in Preston, where The Larder have plans to bring locally produced, organic food to low-income families via vouchers and recipe kits. Bridging the Gap aims to build evidence and momentum behind these ideas, so that credible models can be backed by funders and policy makers, taking the best models mainstream.

“Previous programmes have tended to focus on either providing food to people on low incomes or building the climate- and nature-friendly supply chain. With this ground-breaking programme, we have the opportunity to test and explore models of food provision that do both at the same time. It will be challenging, and much-needed work and we are very grateful to The National Lottery Community Fund for supporting it,” said Julie Brown, Director of Growing Communities.

The programme is particularly welcome at a time when we have seen over 300 areas declare a climate and nature emergency, coupled with a dramatic increase in emergency food bank use, with The Trussell Trust alone recording a 31% rise in demand over the past 5 years. The cost of living crisis is adding additional pressure to low-income households, who, according to Food Foundation, often have to spend 40% of their income on food if they want to meet healthy eating recommendations. This is compared to just 7% of disposable income for the richest fifth of the population. This not only exacerbates health inequalities, but also makes many foods produced in ways that we need to encourage, such as sustainably grown fruit and veg, out of reach of those on lower income.

“At Alexandra Rose Charity, we have pioneered financial incentives to combat food insecurity and improve diets for families on low incomes across the UK. Our work on the Rose Vouchers for Fruit & Veg Project has shown that it’s possible to incentivise improved access for healthy food. We’re excited by the potential of the Bridging the Gap programme to prove that this can be extended to include access not only to healthy, but also sustainable food that’s good for people as well as the planet,” said Jonathan Pauling, Chief Executive of ARC.

Faiza Khan, Director of Engagement and Insight at The National Lottery Community Fund, said, “We are proud to be supporting Bridging the Gap to ensure environmentally friendly food is affordable and accessible for all communities. Thanks to National Lottery players, charities and local groups across the UK will be brought together to help tackle this important issue, improving people’s lives and enabling them to prosper and thrive.”

The National Lottery Community Fund distributes money raised by National Lottery players, who raise more than £30 million each week for good causes across the UK.

Key to the success of the Bridging the Gap programme will be working with existing food supply chains or community food traders and creating viable and sustainable long-term solutions that move away from emergency food aid. The programme will avoid embedding problems such as low incomes for food workers, and food waste caused by over-production for high-volume supermarket supply. The team welcomes involvement from other organisations addressing these issues and will be recruiting advisors for a collaboration group.

Find out more information and sign up for news and updates at or email

Sustain is recruiting a Bridging the Gap Programme Coordinator (application deadline 11 July) and will be looking for a panel of paid advisors over the summer.