Setting a local and regional agenda for food justice: conference report

lm_200SPERI Research Fellow Hannah Lambie-Mumford  was a panellist on Friday 7 November at the Food justice conference which took place in the context of the ESRC Festival of the Social Sciences.

The conference was organised by the South Yorkshire Local Authority University Network (SYLAUN) and brought together leading researchers with practitioners, businesses, policy-makers, community organisations and advocates.

Food justice covers a huge array of topics and the conference was designed to identify the questions and issues around food justice and what we need to learn in order to tackle these at the local/regional level.

The afternoon started with six presentations followed by round-table discussions. The event was well attended with excellent talks and stimulating questions.

On the panel were:

  • Pam Warhurst, Incredible Edible
  • Ed Andrews, Our Cow Molly
  • Dr Megan Blake, University of Sheffield
  • Lindsay Graham, school food and health advisor
  • Jessica Wilson, Sheffield City Council
  • Dr Hannah Lambie-Mumford, SPERI

Dr Megan Blake, from the University of Sheffield Department of Geography, who runs the new MA for Food and Justice, led the event. She highlighted that there was still hunger in countries which are considered food secure before passing on to Pam Warhurst from Incredible Edible.

Pam Warhurst, Incredible Edible
Pam Warhurst, Incredible Edible

Pam Warhust gave an inspiring talk about how she started in 2007 with a small idea: to use public spaces for growing and sharing food.  Edible landscapes are now a worldwide network of over 50 and growing. Pam says that prosperity needs to be redefined but above all we need to take action at the local level and not wait for policy-makers to change the status-quo.

Hannah Lambie-Mumford gave an excellent account of the problems we are facing today in the UK with the increasing pressure of austerity. Talking about hunger and emergency food provision, Hannah highlighted the need for more focus to be placed on developing effective preventative measures addressing the root causes of hunger. She also called for more emphasis on the human right to food in the context of rising numbers of people turning to food banks. She also urged that researchers and other stakeholders avoid a conceptual food ‘silo’, where hunger is seen simply as a food problem, separate from key factors that drive it including low income and cost of living.

Ed from My Cow Molly showing the fall in numbers of Milk Producers
Ed from Our Cow Molly showing the fall in numbers of milk producers

Ed Andrews from Our Cow Molly, the last milk farm in Sheffield, talked about his experience and the difficulties of staying independent. Around three quarter of the milk we consume in the UK is processed by foreign companies. Food justice should also be about understanding where the food we consume comes from and accounting for the full costs, with all externalities, of foreign or intensive food.

The afternoon ended with a vote on the most important questions that Food justice should address.

You can watch Dr Blake talk about the event in the following video produced for Sheffield live.