A report on 8th March 2017 One Planet York Mingle, by Ivana Jakubkova (St Nicks Events Officer who co-organised the event.)
Food is something that we all need and it has big impacts far beyond our plates. With around 200,000 residents in York, we are talking at least 600,000+ food choices every day. These choices may not seem significant on their own but I’m sure you can do the maths for a whole year’s worth or even a decade.
Once we finished our delicious pies served by the Winning Post, Adrian, from St Nicks and Schumacher North, started off the evening’s discussion with these numbers and summarised just some of the ways in which food links to all areas of human life and certainly the majority, if not all, of the One Planet Living principles. When seriously talking about food, it’s not just about the ingredients of our everyday meals and how tasty, healthy or expensive (or not) they are. We also have the issues of waste, transport, affordability and access, animal welfare, carbon footprint (which leads to climate change) and a myriad of others, notwithstanding food security.
It is very tempting to champion local food as the way forward to address a lot of those but, as you can see from the graph or “The Tricky Truth about Food Miles“, most of the carbon footprint of food comes from the way it’s produced and not its transportation. Organically grown and fairly traded food from abroad can be better than a locally, intensively produced plate full of pesticide or fertiliser residues. So how do we ensure that locally grown food is good for us as well as for the wildlife we need to pollinate our crops? This gives us a lot of “food for thought!”
The recent Zero Carbon Britain: Making it Happen report, produced by the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), places Food amongst four key areas (next to transport, buildings and energy) which need tackling in order for the UK to successfully minimise and adapt to climate change. As it happens, the Eatwell Guide promoted by the NHS and other government agencies correlates rather well with CAT’s findings that eating no more than recommended amounts, eating less meat and dairy while increasing intake of fruit and veg is not only more healthy for us, but also better for the environment – both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and land use. Put simply, we can make a difference one meal at a time.
Back to York though; just like it is sensible to plan our meals to some degree in order to have a healthy and ethical diet, the roomful of the Mingle attendees at the Winning Post agreed that it would make sense to have a plan or strategy for York to ensure that both present and future generations have a reliable food supply that is good for the city and the planet. We rather liked the sound of joining the Sustainable Food Cities network and following the example of Bristol and other cities in setting out a sustainable food strategy. While this would be a written document listing our aims, a lot of us expressed a strong support for a short, live document backed up by lots of action.
There is plenty happening already and we had a go round the different groups represented on the night as well as individuals’ actions on food.
To name a few:
Besides introductions to these food initiatives we also covered a variety of other related topics – from food waste, composting and freeganism to cultural differences in approaching food, having the Big Lunch on buses (proposed by York Bus Forum), and helping people gain confidence or choose the right gear for transporting food by bicycle (York Bike Belles).
dedicating public land to growing food and/or pollinating insect havens
These are the sort of topics that relate to people’s lives and get me excited about the prospect of sitting down to help write York’s Sustainable Food Strategy. I suspect that you can think of plenty more – would you like to join in? Get in touch.
(*) Some, including me, would argue that the environment (or nature as a whole) would be fine without either people or economy, and had been for billions of years. I recommend watching Julia Roberts as ‘Mother Nature’ in the series of Nature is Speaking videos as a powerful reminder of that. You might also enjoy another related morsel of food for thought – ‘Making Nature: How we see animals’ exhibition at the Welcome Trust in London (open until 21st May).