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Southwark’s Sustainable Food Summit: 22 March 2022

Southwark Food Action Alliance's Sustainable Food Summit was held this week, bringing members of the alliance together to work towards a sustainable food system status in the borough!

Southwark Food Action Alliance’s Sustainable Food Summit was held this week, bringing members of the alliance together to work towards a sustainable food system status in the borough!

Pembroke House, Community Southwark and Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, co-hosted the Summit on Tuesday 22 March 2022.

During the Covid-19 Pandemic we saw more groups and organisations working to tackle food insecurity in their neighbourhoods. From food banks, food hubs, and pantries, to community fridges, coops, and food growing groups – from local businesses, cafes, and school and nursery kitchens to community kitchens and cooking groups, we’ve all been working towards the same goals. Or have we?!

The event tackled some tough questions such as: What do we mean by a ‘sustainable’ food supply? Sustainable for who – organisations, people or planet? – How can we talk about sustainable food with a cost of living crisis going on – isn’t that going to make things even less affordable? Is redistribution of surplus food good or bad for sustainability? If committed to a more sustainable future, where might we focus our efforts going forward?

The event kicked-off with some exciting speakers in a panel discussion and Q&A, groups, organisations and individuals then contributed to the debate, and then we begin the planning for a sustainable recovery.

Our guest speakers on the panel were:

Dee Woods, Granville Community Kitchen/Landworkers Alliance/ IFAN and more

“People are entitled to buy culturally appropriate food, therefore we need environmentally concious supply chains. Otherwise ethnic groups are not eating healthily which leads to health problems such as diabetes, heart disease etc”

Kemi Akinola, Wandsworth Food Alliance and Be-Enriched

“People need more food in their pockets, we should use the cash first/ neighbourhood food model: locally grown, locally picked. People cooking together reduces waste and social icsolation, plus it uses less gas and electricity. Food security needs to be measured properly and written into legislation.”

Harry, This is Rubbish

“We have a broken, very wasteful system with plenty of food produced but not distributed, with people suffering huge inequality and starvation. Can we afford to be sustainable? But can we afford not to be? Procurement needs to be part of the system. Short term there is a place for surplus food distribution but it is not sustainable.”

Joe Dunne, Middlesbrough Environment City and Eco Shop

“I agree that using surplus food isn’t the fix but currently 1/3 of food is wasted in the world, that’s 10 million tonnes wasted each year and so how do we waste less? We can afford to be sustainable if everyone plays their part, we need to change policies at a local level and then at a national level.”

We then asked the panel: What have we learned from the pandemic?

  • That the current food system is broken (it’s built on the oppression of people)
  • Education is key – waste fell during the pandemic: we used what we had. We need to recreate this as the new normal
  • We learnt that the voluntary and community sector is hugely resilient.

Learnings from the group discussions

  • We need more growing spaces
  • We need more green houses to use as seed banks
  • We need more accessible community allotment spaces
  • We need something in it for the volunteers – such as a buddying system to help build relationships
  • We need community composting sites (good for urban living and space issues)

Developing a shared principal for a sustainable food supply in Southwark

  • Respect helps build trust and dignity and so models such as cash first is what is needed
  • We need to hold Southwark Council to account, we need collaborative thinking with grass roots voices and groups being listened to – better communication
  • Look at and use the tool shed model – providing tools for volunteers is critical
  • We need to facilitate groups of practitioners who have the skills and make sure this learning is shared
  • Jobs in food growing need to be created – young people do want to do this work but there are no jobs for them in the UK!

Join the network

If you would like to register to join the Southwark Food Action Alliance (SFAA), simply complete a SFAA membership application form here.