Vegbox was set up by members of Transition Kentish Town, a community group who want to make Kentish Town less dependent on fossil fuels, and a happier, greener and more neighbourly place to live. We’ve also worked with Transition Tufnell Park, Transition Dartmouth Park and Transition Belsize as we’ve opened collection points in those areas.
Food is often a focus of Transition activities and when we set up Vegbox we wanted to take that to the next level, to create something more visible, something that could generate income and lock in social change. Our opportunity came when Growing Communities, the community-led box scheme in Hackney, launched their amazing Start Up Programme. We joined the programme and set up Vegbox.
The food system in the UK, for all its dazzling choice and rock bottom prices, isn’t actually working very well. It generates a lot of waste and pollution, and depletes soils. It uses too much energy, burning 8 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of food. Supply chains are often complex and opaque, and prices are volatile. Nor are the jobs great: the UK food system employs about 11% of the labour force, but most of them are in the least well-paid jobs, with salaries of less than half the UK average.
So the idea was to create our own little bit of the food system that would support rather than diminish human well being, in a way that is socially just and sustainable over time.
Fresh vegetables are perishable, so a box scheme where you know how many customers you have every week and farmers harvest to order is actually a really efficient way to bring food into cities. The produce is organic, better for soils and use of resources, and the farms are small, using lots of labour rather than massive machines. We are reliable customers and pay a fair price to our farmers.
We have a flat wage of £12 an hour for all Vegbox staff and we are currently 50% paid staff and 50% volunteer run. As we grow, we can pay more and more of our staff costs.
Vegbox has 130 members at present – we hope that you’ll help us continue to grow!