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!)