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Local Food Summit

Report from Jenny Slaughter

Friday, 2 December 2022

Todmorden Learning Centre hosted a Food Summit on Saturday 27th November to which three of us from Pennine Cropshare attended along with the Steering Group of Grow and Graze.

Some big names, nationally and locally, attended either as speakers or as participants.

We were very lucky to hear from Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University about his latest thoughts around Food Sustainability, Food Security and Climate Change. Sadly it is not good news. Although lots of good things are happening on the ground, the global picture is dire and Tim is not optimistic that we have time to turn things around.

Ann Jones from South Pennines Farmers Group
talked to us about the traditional farming methods involved in rearing livestock in the Calder Valley. Fortunately, for the most part cattle and sheep are predominantly grass fed in our area and Ann does not believe they are responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions compared with the carbon cost of say imported food or fast fashion.

On the food access and poverty agenda, Janet Lymer of Calderdale Community Cares, the organisation she set up during Covid which started delivering food to the housebound and is now addressing the issues faced by families due to the cost of living crisis.

Aine Douglas is the coordinator of the Calderdale Food Network which attempts to link up all the food initiatives across Calderdale. Aine explained that she is working with Public Health and other departments across Calderdale Council to draw up a local food strategy that encompasses all the strands affecting health, environment and the local economy.

There was general agreement that despite the exponential rise in food banks, this model of dealing with food poverty is not working and is not sustainable. It is creating a culture of dependency which is a dead end. Alternative models such as social supermarkets are likely to be more empowering.

From the floor, Pam Warhurst, one of the founders of Incredible Edible, told us of her journey to the House of Lords to fight to get legislation for the Right to Grow on land that is in the public realm.

Darren from the Warland Ecofarm is applying for a growing licence for the right to grow fruit and nut trees on a piece of land owned by the council. He has found the process is fraught with impossible hoops to jump through. Reform is needed if we are to work together to make Calderdale more food secure in these difficult times.

After a fabulous and nutritious lunch served by friends of the college, we split into groups to look for solutions. The group I was in looked at the idea of a digital food platform that would link the whole food network of food producers, growers, food poverty providers and consumers which could serve 4-5 distribution hubs across the borough.

As I say this, I am conscious that the chair of the event, Geoff Tansy, from the Food Systems Academy, urged us all to think of ourselves as active Food Citizens, not just consumers.

In the plenary session, I was able to tell the remaining folk who stayed for the day about the inspirational Long Table project in Gloucestershire which is a pay-what-you-can Café serving nutritious locally produced food to over 2000 people per month. As most people actually do pay the price of production, this model supports local producers, feeds people experiencing food insecurity, pays staff for cooking and also trains the next generation. Tim Lang likened this to the wartime British Restaurants that were set up to feed workers so that women would be freed from providing a lunchtime meal and could join the workforce. A great note to end on was the fact that that Todmorden Learning Centre, which has the aspiration to develop a large scale community kitchen, could potentially reinvent this model to provide the opportunity for local folk to experience the magic of eating together to share the food and fruits of the surrounding countryside.

See also:

HebWeb News: Grow + Graze: Campaign to grow more veg in the Calder Valley (Aug 2022)

Grow and Graze.

Pennine Cropshare