On 7 November 2014 a partnership conference bringing together more than 65 practitioners, businesses, policy-makers, community organisations and advocates from across Yorkshire, Northern Lincolnshire, Nottingham was held. The event took place at St. Mary’s Community Centre, was sponsored by the South Yorkshire Local Authorities and Universities Network (SYLAUN), and was part of the 2014 Festival of Social Science.
Food Security is traditionally seen as a global issue, but over recent years focus has been gaining an increasing profile closer to home as issues of Justice are entering the debate. More than 900,000 people in the UK resorted to emergency food from the Trussell Trust in the last year, and up to 4.7m people could be described as in food poverty (Trussell Trust 2014). With the so-called diseases of affluence more prevalent in the UK’s poorer communities and at the same time the continued attrition of farmers in the country it is clear that food justice is not only an important issue for the UK but also a complex one.
The aim of the conference was to identify what we already know about food justice, and what we need to learn in order to tackle it at the local/regional level. By the end of the conference, participants agreed the most important questions on this issue and identified actions to take forward together. We were welcomed to the event by Jo Watts from Food Cycle Sheffield. Barry Gibson, from the Department of Dentistry at the University of Sheffield, chaired the event. The panel of speakers included:
- Megan Blake, University of Sheffield. Researcher in Food Justice and Director of the MA in Food Security and Food Justice and Food Justice Blogger. The text for the presentation is here.
- Pam Warhurst co-founder of Incredible Edible Todmorton: http://incredibleediblenetwork.org.uk/member/pam-warhurst with Joanna Dobson: http://incredibleediblenetwork.org.uk/member/joanna-dobson
- Jessica Wilson: Sheffield City Council, Responsible for the Sheffield Food Plan. https://www.sheffieldfirst.com/the-partnership/health-and-well-being-partnership/food-plan.html
- Lindsay Graham, School Food and Health Advisor. http://www.lindsaygraham.org.uk Slides from Lindsay’s presentation on children out of term time food programme good practice is available here: Decent helpings–Children
- Hannah Lambie-Mumford, University of Sheffield. SPERI Research Fellow and winner of an ESRC Impact award for her work concerning food banks, http://hannahlambiemumford.wordpress.com
- Eddie Andrew, Dairy Farmer, Our Cow Molly. http://www.ourcowmolly.co.uk/about-the-farm/
The second half of the event consisted of round table discussions where 52 questions were proposed that those present felt were needful of further research. These were then sorted into 8 Categories: Consumption and Consumers, Regulation and Legislation, The ‘Local’, Distribution, Learning and Sharing, Community, Food Banks, Local Authorities. Tables were then given the task of ranking the categories in terms of what participants felt were the most pressing. These rankings were reported back, Eurovision style, with the top three categories being Regulation and Legislation (1st), Community (2nd), Learning and Sharing (3rd). The questions from Regulation and Legislation will be incorporated into a research proposal and funding will be sought to investigate the topic further. Other questions will be made available to students who will be doing the MA in Food Security and Food Justice as part of their work-based dissertations. If your organisation would be interested in being a partner with one of these students please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the break, while questions were being sorted into categories, Geoff Tansey, Curator of the Food Systems Academy provided a discussion of the resources that are publicly available and also discussed a forthcoming Fabian Commission Inquiry into Food and Poverty in the UK which he chairs (more information is available via this Briefing Pack).
The programme for the day is available here: decenthelpings
For further coverage of the event see:
- Local television coverage: Sheffield Live
- A review by Comments by the Sheffield Institute for Political Economy (SPERI)
- Article by David Edwards in the Sheffield Star
- Geoff Tansy, of the Food Systems Academy, has some comments here.
- Reflections from Jonas House, a Geography Postgraduate student and table facilitator are here and from an undergraduate student who attended as a participant are here.
There was also a very active twitter conversation on the day. A storify of the event is available here.
More photo’s of the event are available in the Decent Helpings Gallery.
Special mention goes to Ann Pittard, Business Development Manger of the University of Sheffield’s Research Exchange for the Social Sciences who co-organised the event with Megan Blake. A number of students from the Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield helped out at the event. Doctoral students Jonas House, Marta Rodriques, Elizabeth Kamunge, and Ava Shackleford helped facilitate roundtable discussions along with Laura Lashmere and Sophie Hallam from the Third Sector Cafe, Lindsay Graham, Jessica Wilson, Ipshita Ghose from the University of Sheffield Food Futures group (SheFF), Tim Allen (Sheffield on a Plate) and Miles Crompton from Rotherham City Council. Second year students Daisy Judges, Zoe Cutts and Isabel Emmerson acted as marshals and also helped out with live tweeting.