Good food for allIn November 2015, Good Food Oxford had our first grand voyage abroad* and joined food folk from over 20 different Sustainable Food Cities (the national network of food partnerships which GFO is part of) to share learning from their work.

*(Ok I lied, it was Edinburgh – but it made you read on, didn’t it?!)

The conference was organised by Soil Association Scotland as part of its Food for Life Scotland programme and focussed on work from Scotland and the North of England. However the organisers were keen to hear from Oxford because of the pioneering projects on food surplus, poverty and redistribution which is happening in our city. So feeling conspicuously Southern, but also chuffed to be representing the great work going on in our network, off I went to Edinburgh.

The day was themed around sharing successes and challenges of adopting the Sustainable Food Cities approach (i.e. a cross sector partnership on food) and it was interesting to compare Oxford’s relatively young partnership with cities that have been going for much longer – FYI, we’re doing pretty well! It was also a chance to recognise the scale of the national impact of the SFC network. As nicely put by Frank Strang, Deputy Director, Food, Drink & Rural Communities at the Scottish Government, each city is not just working on its own food system but is part of the UK becoming a ‘good food nation.’

I was in a workshop group on project implementation, with reps from Liverpool, Cardiff and Edinburgh, and shared some of Oxford’s food surplus projects, including the pilot Pumpkin Festival, Feeding the Gaps, the Oxford Food Surplus Café and the unique model of the Oxford Food Bank. You can see all the presentations from the day here. There was lots of interest and by the end of the day I had a pretty big list of people wanting more detail – so watch this space for a Monday Shop in Glasgow or a Newcastle Pumpkin Festival (oh wait, that one already happened!).

I spent most of the day presenting, as the workshops were on rolling repeat BUT I did manage to take away a couple of interesting sound bites to share:

  • The importance of having action in our partnerships. There are countless examples of policy strategy which never makes it into anything practical and just ‘sits on a shelf’, so it’s good to be reminded that our bigger picture work also needs a deliverable to do list!
  • ‘There is no relationship between food poverty and food waste’ – was a thought provoking statement made by Kerry Melville of Belfast Food Network. Given the strong links we have made between the symptoms of both in Oxford, using the latter to help address the former, it’s always sobering to remember than the root causes are unrelated and that our end goal is to remove both problems altogether.
  • Food poverty indicator measurements are being developed in Northern Ireland. At present there are currently no national UK measurements for food poverty (as there are for poverty, for example) so it will be interesting to see what these look like and how they can be applied elsewhere.
  • Glasgow and Edinburgh have issued a joint statement on food poverty. The leaders of the two city councils pledged to work to ensure that all citizens have access to sustainable, nutritious food as a matter of course, not as a result of charity. More councils should do the same.

And as if you couldn’t fit any more foodie fun into one day, it even ended with a surplus food dinner (haggis free) in the Student Housing Co-op I was staying in!

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