Having Enough Good Food for the Manchester Region; who we need to influence and what we need to do, to multiply our impact?

Twenty three people came together at a workshop organised by Steady State Manchester (SSM) on Saturday 18th October. In a spirit of shared learning participants generated priorities about WHO we need to influence and WHAT we need to do, to multiply our impact.

The workshop included people involved in urban agriculture and community food growing as growers, researchers and environmental campaigners. They came from Liverpool and Todmorden as well as Greater Manchester.

The workshop kicked off with six three minute presentations.

Mark Burton (SSM) briefly outlined what a viable economy is, why it is important and why SSM is interested in food, he said:

food is a lens through which we can look at our present predicament and start to visualise how to develop a viable economy – one which reduces inequality and conserves the planet.’

The speakers were asked to identify an issue which would make the most difference to multiplying our impact. They included Catherine Burgess from Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton, Lucy Danger from Manchester Emerge and Fareshare, Chris Walsh from the Kindling Trust and Nick Green from Incredible Farm in Walsden. Several speakers felt the key to progress was improvements at all stages of the supply chain.

All pre-registered participants had been invited to bring an issue to share which they felt would make most difference. During the course of the afternoon a range of issues were presented, explored, amended and by the end emerged in new forms. Issues which were transformed into actions concerned ensuring all food is used, communication and bringing Housing Associations on board with viable approaches to food. Many participants left with jobs to do.

Participants could see the great potential of ensuring that more of the food that is grown is used. Debbie Ellen, who had sent the issue she would have presented if she had not been unwell, reported that a frightening 30% of food that is grown is wasted because it is graded out as the wrong size shape or colour. She argued that changing European Union regulation change could reduce this. Workshop participants will make links with local European parliament members with a food remit to explore working with them to change European Union regulations. Others want to work with supermarkets to tackle waste.

In terms of who we need to influence, there was commitment to encouraging Housing Associations to more actively support viable food issues. Several ideas for getting together and improving communication at all levels gained support including: participants will interview one another about their successes and failures and post them on On the Platform; organising community meals which both connect people and encourage conversations about good food support for an existing project to establish a Greater Manchester Food Council and promoting provocative activities (watch this space for details on the last one!)

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1 Response to Having Enough Good Food for the Manchester Region; who we need to influence and what we need to do, to multiply our impact?

  1. It is our supermarkets that impose the nonsense, that all fruit and vegetables, should be a certain size, colour and shape. Most of our farmers are dependant on supplying the supermarkets. It is the smaller but unsubsidised organic farmers who sell to the likes of Unicorn and Eighth Day, food as it is. One French supermarket is bucking the trend, by promoting Ugly food: http://www.organicauthority.com/3-food-waste-facts-about-frances-ugly-produce-campaign/. I would not call it ugly food, it is natural, unlike a lot of the stuff sold in supermarkets.
    There is also the problem of farmers, deeming the price they will be pay for their produce, does not make it viable to harvest it. So it is allowed to rot in the fields, this has occurred under EU food quotas. At the moment because of the USA led embargo on trade with Russia, farmers have no market for their produce. I do not know if that is the reason for all the fruit rotting on the trees here in the East Algarve? I have seen hundreds of almond, olive, pomegranate, lemons, oranges and even grapes just left rotting.
    At the end of the day, farmers should be able to make a living, supplying their local markets and not depend on supplying cash crops, which end up being exported elsewhere. By the way, Marc Hudson has a book of mine, from the http://www.foodethicscouncil.org/, called: http://www.foodethicscouncil.org/uploads/publications/2010%20FoodJustice.pdf.
    This was a report into the whole food supply issue and what possible solutions there are.

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