On Friday 6th November I was fortunate enough to be invited to Edinburgh’s sustainable food cities event which brought together policy makers, councillors, representatives from local authorities, the public, private and third sector from all over the UK, all with a vested interest in making food sustainable.
Set in Edinburgh’s beautiful Methodist church, the event was set-up by Food for Life Scotland whom are underpinned by the Soil Association. Their aim is to link food culture, catering, curriculum and communities in order to transform food culture and food systems across Scotland. With 2015 being the Year of Food and Drink in Scotland it is clear that now more than ever food is the crucial component that links society together.
The sustainable cities approach is led by the Soil Association in partnership with Sustain and Food Matters. They bring together the different sectors in society who hold the view that sustainable food is the future to preserving the planet and benefiting the people who inhabit this planet. Challenges, solutions and best practice are all aspects considered within the sustainable cities network. Edinburgh have led the way in Scotland with their Edible Edinburgh strategy towards building new approaches to food. Their aims include:
- To create fair and affordable access to sustainable food, and ensure people can use it to provide a fresh, healthy and nutritious diet.
- To grow, produce and distribute food more locally while conserving and protecting our natural resources and environment.
- Use our natural resources more efficiently in order to minimise our ecological footprint and reduce levels of avoidable food waste.
- To develop a thriving local food economy based on public and private sectors procuring more sustainable food.
- To develop a diverse, independent food sector which offers a variety of high quality skills, training and employment opportunities.
- To inspire, enable and support people to connect with food – the everyday pleasures and cultural traditions of eating, sharing and celebrating meals together.
Edible Edinburgh aim to make significant progress on these aims by 2020.
Many other representatives from various cities across the UK were also present to share what they have been doing or what they want to do from Stockport to Bournemouth to Liverpool. Glasgow are also on the cusp of sharing their sustainable cities aims working closely with Edinburgh as a best practice model. The ideas and initiatives shared by each city were so inspiring. Putting my teacher hat on, I love the idea brought forward by Liverpool ‘disco scouse.’ Whereby food that would otherwise go to waste is transformed into delicious dishes. Check out The Real Junk Food Project based in Liverpool who are aiming to turn this idea into a permanent cafe. Something similar in the form of a pop up event has already taken place in Edinburgh in February this year. I personally love the idea to transform food waste in my home economics department at school into nutritious, sustainable meals that someone could eat for their lunch where the ingredients would otherwise go to waste. No amount of planning can take into account student absences and there inevitably is wastage each week. It has ignited an idea in me to start a club which will not only minimise waste but hopefully inspire passion for change and build on cookery skills. Anything I can do at school level to fit into Edible Edinburgh’s objectives can only be a good thing for that part of Edinburgh’s community, school and beyond.
The Soil Associations’s Food for Life catering mark is another excellent driver in ensuring the food we supply to our children at school is all of the things mentioned in the picture. The school I work in currently holds a bronze award and after speaking with Kirsten Leask, Food for Life’s Education and Engagement Officer, I’m keen to find out how I can get involved as a teacher and roll this initiative out to whole school and the wider community.
Food poverty was an issue that took prevalence at Friday’s event. With public sector budgets being cut left right and centre and the reliance on food banks becoming more and more strained, there is time for action to change this reliance. Kerry Melville from Belfast Food Network talked about the need for coordination on food poverty. How there were many different food banks in one city but no communication between them. How the food available at food banks is processed, high in salt, sugar and fat and can hardly be put to good use to make a nutritious meal. How food deemed as waste food by supermarkets is being shipped to food banks and how this shouldn’t be used as the solution to the problem of food poverty. As an Edinburgh resident I think Edible Edinburgh has hit the nail on the head with their aims that I mentioned earlier and provides a great model for other cities to benchmark. Having so many interested, or sometimes uninterested, parties can be hard to juggle though, which means the issues faced won’t be alleviated overnight. However events like this one show the willingness and need for sustainable food in order to fix many problems we currently have at not only a local but national level.
If only so much care and time was taking when all food was made, lunch was glorious. I loved the little name cards describing the ingredients and whether people with specific dietary needs / choices should be aware or not. Not displayed in this particular photo but there were lots of options for those who follow a gluten free diet and a massive array of vegan choices. The hummus was particularly melt in your mouth delicious. Fairtrade fruit and organic produce was majority made by the Well Café which is attached to Edinburgh’s Methodist church, I’ll definitely be back for lunch at a future date.