More than just food

Video

A film about how community organisations are using food to help overcome loneliness and everyday food insecurity, while also transforming their communities.  Eating together with others, what I call social eating, has so many benefits.  Continue reading

Flood

The water laps, and even when it does not lap there is always the possibility. It comes in and overtakes. You worry when it rains and you cannot always predict the damage the rain will do.

When it happens what you have is destroyed. The water permeates and rots the foundation. The damp and disease it carries invades your body. It leaves its traces on the walls. You try to clean the muck and grime from your memories and the material objects that hold them. You think you have it all cleaned up, but then it happens again.

Years of neglect have eroded the flood defenses that used to provide protection, at least from the worst of it. It lapped at your door, but didn’t invade where you live. It does now. But this does not matter to those who are in charge.

People ask, “Why you don’t leave the flood plain and go up the mountain?” To them, where you live is a choice. Choice is a myth, it is a privilege actually only afforded to a few.

It takes resources and stamina to go up the mountain. You are out of both. It would also mean leaving those things and people behind, whom you have come to love. Those you know you can depend upon. It doesn’t feel like there is room for everyone up the mountain. Besides, they do things differently up there. Living on the side of the mountain requires its own skills and knowledges. You don’t feel you would belong.

This is what it is like to live in poverty in the UK today. A wealthy country, where the people who have gossip in the isles of the supermarket as they choose between buying the whole salmon or the pork roast because they can practice thrift and get three meals by bulk cooking. For those who are struggling financially, the choice is much more stark–“should we get frozen pizza or the micro burgers“. A whole salmon or pork roast is not even an option as it would eat up the whole month’s food budget. What would you eat for the rest of the month. “We will get the pizza. Everyone likes pizza and it will last in the freezer until we need it. If we add a few mushrooms it is also more healthy compared to the micro burger. If we add a bit of tomato sauce it will also taste a bit better.” Pizza is self contained. It does not go to waste. It fills up your family and you can carry it home easily. This is how to practice thrift when your budget is stretched.

We need to repair our social welfare system and our community infrastructures in order to provide a defenses against the impacts of poverty on our neighbours and communities. This system acts like the flood defenses and can prevent future and further damage. But it does not repair the damage wrought by previous breaches. Nor does it help these households and communities settle on higher ground. We start by protecting but we should not stop there. Everyone deserves to be able to feel secure and to be able to define what that security looks like.

Behind hungry children there are hungry parents.

Behind hungry children are hungry parents. We know that typically parents feed their children before they feed themselves in the UK. We also know that households that are most likely to be food insecure tend to live in areas where others are also struggling. While enough money to purchase food is important, it isn’t enough. We need solutions that address the immediate need but also solutions that work toward a longer term, socially just resilience.

I was recently invited to participate in a webinar on children’s food insecurity. It was attended by more than 300 people from across industry, policy, community, health, and academic sectors. It was organised by Bernadette Moore and Charlotte Evans of the N8 Food Systems Policy Hub.

Using food systems to address children’s food insecurity.

Methods for change

Video

I am part of a project with a group of women who are thinking through our research methods and how they can help create change. This has been a really useful exercise for me, as my methods are often so intertwined with my research that taking them apart can be difficult. I’ve created a short video where I talk through my approach. This was part of a Festival of Social Sciences Methods for change event held by Manchester University and Aspect. The event was not recorded, but I am making my short presentation available here.

Methods for change – Co-producing for social change

Mapping Food Ladders

One of the questions that I frequently get from local food networks and local authorities is “how do we map what already exists in our community?”  Organisations also ask how what they do maps onto the food ladders approach.  These are questions that I have been exploring recently, as in theory it seems straight forward, but in practice it can be much more difficult.  To this end I have developed a workshop on how to map food activity in communities onto the Food Ladders framework. It takes a blended learning approach, starting with self-directed online learning, followed by a group activity that involves discussing and agreeing how activity maps onto the ladders within individual organisations. There is also a form tool that can be adapted for collecting the relevant data needed for this mapping. While the examples in this workshop are third sector organisations, any form of activity can be mapped onto the ladders.

Continue reading

APPG Hearings on Loneliness and Isolation–Oral evidence

This August I was invited to provide oral evidence to an All Party Parliamentary Group hearing. The focus of the group is to address issues of loneliness and isolation, an issue that has become more pronounced during the COVID crisis.

The APPG’s independent inquiry seeks to:

  1. Hold government to account and secure a renewed cross-Government commitment to tackling loneliness and its underlying causes
  2. Build on progress made to date, by recommending tangible and ambitious next steps for government, at the end of the inquiry in December 202
  3. Explore solutions to crucial but complex policy areas identified by the Loneliness Action Group as outlined within the Shadow report, A connected Society? which assesses progress in tackling loneliness

I participated in the hearing on funding. My contribution starts at about minute 33.

Beanstalk Global Podcast for Healthy and Sustainable Food

Last week I participated in a webinar for a group of people who are concerned about healthy and sustainable food. The podcast focused on food insecurity. Participants in the webinar included Barbara Bray, Mark Driscoll and Jacqui Green, who have founded the group, as well as Tom Amery, MD of The Watercress Company and Ben Thomas, Environment Manager from Waitrose & Partners, and me.

You can watch the facebook live recording of the webinar below, but it was also broadcast live on Linked In and will be available from the Beanstalk Global web page soon. There is a bit of natter at the start of the broadcast which is not really related to the webinar, which starts at about 2 minutes in.

Webinar hosted on Beanstalk Global re: Food insecurity.