Throughout the last year, the Coronavirus pandemic has triggered an unprecedented demand for food banks as people faced mass unemployment on a scale that has not been seen in decades. Determined not to allow people to fall through the cracks, Steve Brown, Class of 1999 and Head of Food Education at Edinburgh Food Social (EFS), launched EFS’ ‘Community Food Support’, a charity which has provided over 65,000 meals to those in need with the help of our very own kitchens at The Mary Erskine School. In the process, Steve was deservedly shortlisted for ‘Most Heroic Individual’ at the Heinz Food Heroes awards.
After hearing about the instrumental role that Steve and Edinburgh Food Social played in feeding vulnerable people in our local Edinburgh community throughout the pandemic, we wanted to catch up with him to find out more about how he came to set up this incredible initiative.
During his time as a student at Stewart’s Melville College, Steve didn’t have a clear picture of the career he wanted to pursue after school until he landed his first job as a part-time waiter. His position allowed him to gain valuable insight into the workings of a commercial kitchen which ultimately piqued his interest in food, quickly becoming a passion that led to a career in the food industry both as a “chef and educator”.
Since then, Steve has worked in a variety of positions in kitchens across the UK and around the world. Throughout his impressive career, he has run his own start-up catering business called Zucchini and even owned a successful restaurant consultancy business, after he admittedly had “probably been watching too many Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares!”
In 2010, Steve later transitioned into the food education sector which ultimately led to his current position as Head of Food Education at the Edinburgh Food Social, a social enterprise with the aim to educate young people and communities about local, seasonal food.
However, when the Coronavirus pandemic struck and the hospitality industry shut their doors following the announcement of a national lockdown, Steve noted that “there were about to be a lot of chefs out of work and a lot of folk needing food.” Within the first week of lockdown, Steve had reached out to people he had known from his years working in the hospitality industry and set up EFS’ ‘Community Food Support', an emergency COVID food response.
“Our ‘just in time’ supply chain, together with a lack of cookery skills means that there was very little resilience in Edinburgh’s deprived communities when things got difficult. Not only are we campaigning for better education and shorter supply chains but we are also supporting people in our local community with fresh, nutritious food for as long as they need it.”
Edinburgh Food Social’s ‘Community Food Support’ coalition was set up to offer a delivery service of freshly prepared meals to feed those in need across Edinburgh, with the aim of relieving pressures on existing food relief organisations and providing additional support. To enable Steve and the Edinburgh Food Social to feed as many people as possible, we were delighted to lend them our kitchens at MES which were first used by EFS during the summer lockdown to prepare over 65,000 meals and again in December to deliver delicious Christmas dinners to those in need.
“This work has only been possible with the kindness and generosity of organisations and businesses throughout Scotland. From producers to chefs to you guys at ESMS, everybody has pitched in to support us with the food, volunteer hours and kitchens that we have needed to support people during this time.”
Thank you, Steve, your work epitomises our school values and we are delighted to be working with you again as we launch our ESMS Winter Challenge, to continue our support for those who have been left in need by the pandemic.