Tuesday, 26 February 2013


At ChristChurch Clarendon Park for an evening conference on Food Sovereignty, jointly hosted by Christians Aware and the Leicester branch of the World Development Movement, with support from Leicester Friends of the Earth.

There are over 40 people in the room when Barbara Butler (Executive Secretary of Christians Aware) opens the meeting. She and Amanda Fitton (Office Manager at Christians Aware in Saxby Street) have been here since early afternoon, laying out displays and setting up the room.

The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. Commonly, the concept of food security is defined as including both physical and economic access to food that meets people's dietary needs as well as their food preferences. In many countries, health problems related to dietary excess are an ever increasing threat. Food security is built on three pillars:
  • Food availability: sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis.
  • Food access: having sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet.
  • Food use: appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation.
Food security is a complex sustainable development issue, linked to health through malnutrition, but also to sustainable economic development, environment, and trade. There is a great deal of debate around food security with some arguing that there is enough food in the world to feed everyone adequately and that the problem is one of distribution.

FareShare Leicester
Peter and Sheila Yates (n that order - right and centre in the photo above) speak first, about FareShare Leicester. The dual objectives of FairShare Leicester are, "fighting hunger, tackling food waste". In the world today, there are one billion malnourished people. All the world's hungry could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food wasted in the US and Europe. Globally, 50% of food is wasted between farm and fork.

Peter presents some stats, setting the scene for FairShare's work, helping us understand and appreciate its importance. 
  • 1 in 10 people in the UK cannot afford a healthy diet.
  • 1 in 7 people over the age of 65 are at serious risk of malnourishment
  • 6.7 million people in the UK are affected by low income - perhaps the most critical factor leading to food poverty.
  • 5% of adults in the UK cannot afford fresh fruit daily
  • 5% of mothers go without food to meet the needs of their children
  • 5% of teenagers experience homelessness and are reliant on day centres or soup runs for basic food needs
  • 25% of households in the UK live on less than £135 a week
  • Food prices have risen 12% in real terms over the last five years
  • All foods have risen in price since 2007, with rises ranging from 17% to 36%
  • Processed foods have risen the most (30%) since June 2007, with a 15% rise in the year to June 2012
  • Fruit prices have risen the second most, by 34% since June 2007, rising steadily each year
  • The bread and cereal products thrown away in the UK is enough to lift 30 million people out of malnourishment
  • Estimated total UK food and drink waste is around 15 million metric tonnes per year, with households generating 7.2 metric tonnes per year, of which 4.4 metric tonnes is avoidable
This is just some of the evidence Peter offers us. He says a lot more, but I promised him I wouldn't give away the whole of his act. We in the audience would have felt that these things are true, without necessarily having the facts at our fingertips. When we see the figures, it is horrifying. Of course, Peter and Sheila don't just leave us in that condition, but offer ways for us to help FareShare Leicester make a difference to those who so desperately need help.

World Development Movement
The second presentation is made for the World Development Movement by Dan Isles (on the left in the photo above). Dan is a Campaigner in their Food Team, working to abolish food speculation and to build up the UK Food Sovereignty Movement. Dan has had a lot of experience of the food movement. In Bristol he co-founded a social enterprise to tackle food waste, helped set up a community garden and had a go at establishing a community-owned food co-op. He was part of the UK delegation to the Food Sovereignty event in Austria in 2011 and has been heavily involved in the UK scene since then.

If Peter and Sheila's talk focused on issues of food security in relation to people in this country, for the most part consumers - and wasters - of food, then Dan's talk (entitled "Transforming Our Food System: The Movement for Food Sovereignty") could be said to consider the impacts of the same changing economic factors on people overseas, mostly the producers of the food we consume - and waste.

Almost every event I attend that's sponsored by Christians Aware leaves me feeling as if I've been duffed up. To say that this brief evening conference gave us al food for thought would be low punning of an order that even I would eschew. But it's hard to say just how this makes me feel as I set off into the chill night air. Thank goodness for committed, competent and confident activists; if not for them, where would we be?

No comments:

Post a Comment