I was recently invited to be the guest host for a Food themed event held by two friends who run The Third Sector Café. The Café is held on the third Thursday of each month. The purpose of the events are to enhance sharing and awareness around good practice and to give people working primarily in third sector activities an opportunity to network with people with similar interests and goals (which are often to make enough money to be sustainable on the one hand and achieve some social good on the other). Each Third Sector Café event is run a bit differently. Sometime the speakers give a presentation, sometimes (as was the case for the food event) there are break out groups and people discuss issues that matter to them and the running of their third sector organisation. Always, however, there is a chance for people to introduce themselves and to ask a question of the group or to offer a service to the group that is present.
This particular event had the themes: Grow, Make, Give, and Sell. The storify link (above) is a summary of the live event as it occurred through twitter and has a bit more about how the day progressed. I was given the rather scary task of introducing the topic and then floating around and observing the discussions. In my introduction I focussed on values as this seemed to me what brought all the rather disparate participants together. In my introduction I argued that the phrase, “We are what we eat”, more than merely captures the biological bodily needs that food can fulfil, it also captures the social and moral expressions that occur through our engagements with food. Furthermore, it is also the case that through these value infused engagements with food we contribute to the making of the places we inhabit. Our food practices have the power to produce places that are full of hospitality or animosity or that are sustainable or wasteful.
Oddly perhaps, as so many of the participants’ organisations have twitter handles, relatively little live tweeting was going on over the course of the day. Perhaps it was because people where having such interesting and good face-to-face discussions. What struck me so much was the way that the values of care and generosity for others, for the city where we live, and the environments that help us produce food came out in the conversations. There was a genuine desire to connect and to share resources with each other but also with those who are not as well off, which in turn, of course enhances the liveability of our city. While the food landscape of Sheffield is very different to that of Hong Kong, I was also struck by the fact that many of the problems are similar and that in both of these places there is hope for the future of food and the future of society in the ways that care is being expressed through the engagements of people with each other through food.