Creating connections – using the Food Manifesto in your community

By Corinne Cariad

With so much change taking place in the world around us – with Brexit and Covid-19 challenging the status quo – we have the opportunity to shape and transform the way we live and in some places changes are already underway. I wanted to offer my experience of using Food Manifesto Wales as a framework to consider our local and national food system.

I was drawn to Food Manifesto Wales because the invitation to contribute and join the process of creating a ‘food manifesto’ felt genuinely open. Also, because it provides a starting point for talking about food with different people. I like the inclusive and cooperative values of Food Manifesto Wales, and I’ve used it as the basis for discussions with various groups. From people who are deeply invested in the food system, growing, producing and selling food in Wales to people who are interested in the food they buy and eat and to those who don’t give much thought to these things.

I think a national food manifesto is a good idea for all citizens, for our communities and all those directly involved in the food system – to determine with intention the guiding principles for the complex food system we are all part of. I like the simplicity of Food Manifesto Wales’ main point, ‘Everyone in Wales has access to high-quality, nutritious and safe food’. There are nine accompanying action points in support of this, included to cover the wide reach of food in our society now and into the future – considering environmental and economic impacts as well as social aspects from farmers, food workers and animal welfare to education and the enjoyment of food.

Using Food Manifesto Wales as a starting point, what follows are some activities for facilitating conversations about food in Wales. Participants may be drawn together in numerous and intersecting ways – they may be citizens with a shared cause, a community group or an organisation or business. These activities may be delivered as standalone, one-off exercises or you may choose to use some, or all, of them to delve deeper. The order can be varied to suit the group needs. Once the10 points of the Manifesto have been introduced, you will have a good framework and common language to work with.

The more of us working towards the aim of everyone in Wales having access to high-quality, nutritious and safe food, the more likely we will be to achieve it! We are really interested to hear how you’ve used Food Manifesto Wales, so please feedback by e-mail to hello@foodmanifesto.wales. .

Mapping

Mapping is to identify what is already happening in your local geographical area. Although you may already know, taking the time to review your knowledge can be helpful – possibly before planning further actions or activities, or to identify partners and allies, or to identify current or best practice. The detailed discussion usually works best completed by a small group or a large group divided into smaller groups which report back to the large group.

Consider the 10 points of the Food Manifesto and choose those most relevant for your group – you may choose them all! You may consider the points of the Manifesto together, however, to cover points in depth, I suggest discussing 1-2 points in small groups or (if already a small group) consider 1-2 points over different group sessions. For each point you choose:

  • Based on the Food Manifesto Wales points that you have chosen, identify what is available or already happening in your local area or organisation or business. This may be as simple as discussing it or you could look at a map, take an enquiry walk around the area and talk in small groups about what you encounter.
  • Document your discussion: If discussing in situ you could draw/write on a map, mindmap ideas on post-it notes, or nominate a note taker. If walking around the area you could, take photos, record audio/video/written notes.

Next steps: consider what (if anything) you will do with the ideas and information you’ve gathered.

Prioritising

I’ve found it helpful to consider with groups how the 10 points of the Food Manifesto intersect (do some points rely on or support other points?), and/or to identify the priority points for the group. It may be a stand-alone activity or used before/following another activity. In small groups:

  • Discuss the 10 points and consider if you can/want to arrange them in an order of priority and/or identify those most relevant to the group. You may also discuss intersections between the points. Remember, there is no correct or incorrect answer. The aim is to promote discussion and to encourage all participants to contributemultiple perspectives will enrich the discussion and everyone’s understanding.
  • If doing further work, it is helpful to document your discussion and/or priorities via photographs, notes, audio/video recording.
  • If small groups are part of a larger group, it can be useful to share a summary of the smaller group discussions with everyone else and see if there is any commonality with action points the group consider most important, this can help to identify the groups’ priorities.

Next steps: the priority and/or intersection discussion can be used to inform planning any subsequent actions.

Visioning exercise

Before starting a new project or action it helps to consider what all involved envision. Following this comes agreement on what you want to achieve collectively, your shared vision. This activity is useful before planning actions/activities to set the intention and aim. It follows on well from the Mapping Activity.

Identifying and discussing different perspectives to create a shared vision can help everyone feel heard and more likely to invest their time, energy and support. It can also help maintain motivation to ultimately achieve the ambition of the shared vision.

In small groups choose one or two of the 10 points to focus on. As before, you may consider more, however, to cover points in depth I suggest discussing 1-2 points in small groups or (if already a small group) consider 1-2 points over different group sessions. For each point you choose:

  • Encourage everyone to share their vision with no limits to the ambition of these dreams and ideas – there are no ‘wrong’ ideas! It’s important not to shut any ideas down, yours or anyone else’s. You may choose to do this individually to begin with and then share your visions in the group, or, begin visioning together.
  • Document your visioning in whatever way feels appropriate. Creativity can help here, such as creating a collage from magazines, newspapers, pictures or texts; drawing or painting; free-writing; recording your idea with audio or video; or more traditional ways such as putting ideas on post-it notes or note-taking from discussion.

Next steps: share and/or display your vision and use it as the basis for your next step (if you’re taking one). Refer back to your shared vision whenever you need to, as inspiration to help keep on track and aid motivation.

Make connections

This activity is useful to identify potential ways of making connections and/or when collaborating with others. For example, connections/collaborations may be with one or more of the following: citizens coming together; established community groups; local authorities and services (incl. public service boards); organisations; businesses; Welsh Government. It may be used instead of or with other activities here, following ‘Mapping’ or in conjunction with ‘Prioritising’.

Recognising that the food system in Wales is complex with numerous intersections, making connections and collaborative working is vital for long-term and sustainable change. However, there may be other forces at play in terms of competition for resources and sensitivities around sharing business or sector knowledge. A shared agreement to establish trust may be helpful (such as The Courtauld Agreement).

  • Each participant/specific group identifies which of the 10 points they are most focused on, interested in or have influence/involvement with. Take notes/document and share with others – this could be a simple aide memoire or a more formal presentation.
  • Each participant/group shares their specific area of focus, interest and/or influence/involvement. Take notes/document this for future reference.

Next steps: all participants/groups encouraged to identify how they would like to connect or collaborate with others. This could be used to take further joint action and/or to support each other. A shared aim will help, such as ‘To work towards realising the common purpose of, “Everyone in Wales has access to high-quality, nutritious and safe food”.’ 

Please have a look at the toolkit that Sustainable Food Places has produced – it’s a great resource for just this type of work.


Corinne Cariad is a freelance consultant, coach and writer specialising in food education, structural organisation and event facilitation. She is an experienced food teacher and has taught in mainstream schools, the secure estate, as well as family and adult education.

Wales Food Manifesto: An invitation to shape the next draft

Andy Middleton mugshotThis article was written by Andy Middleton following the launch of the Wales Food Manifesto at the National Botanic Gardens on 9 February 2018. Andy is a environmental activist and social entrepreneur who is Founder and Chief Exploration Officer at TYF St.Davids, a Founding Partner at the Do Lectures, a Non-Exec Director on the Board of National Resources Wales and a member of the Innovation Advisory Council for Wales.

There’s a forester’s saying that the best time to plant a tree is 25 years ago, and the next best time is today. The same goes for changes to our food system needed to restore resilience and productivity to the natural systems that provide us food, water and resources. A wide range of organisations have been calling for transformational change to the way we grow, process and consume food, with far-reaching recommendations that would shift an industry on its axis if adopted widely.

The World Health Organisation have made causal links between red meat and cancer, and recommend reducing its consumption. Compassion in World Farming are calling for an end to factory farming to preserve the world’s biodiversity. Research from Cambridge University and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change call for reductions in meat and dairy consumption for carbon reduction.

Brexit meanwhile brings its own set of challenges that need to be balanced by an understanding of the trade deal balances between UK and food exporting countries. In new technology, innovators such as Aerofarms and Growing Underground are extending the boundaries of possibility with hydroponic growing whilst  ‘safe meat’ businesses such as Memphis Meats question our assumptions further. Changing diets are shifting meal choices towards meat-free menus, with nearly a third of UK dinners now vegetarian or vegan dishes.

Humanity is already making new choices about the food that it grows and eats. In Wales, we can plan a route to a resilient future by putting food and farming at the centre of a journey that leads to the wellbeing of citizens, communities and nature.

The principles and actions in this latest draft of the Wales Food Manifesto are offered for the discussion, improvement and debate that leads to the scale of response needed.

Download the second draft at Food Manifesto Wales Second Draft Apr 2018, then please let the team at Wales Food Manifesto know:

  1.  What changes would you would want to see for you and/or your organization to declare support for the ten principles?
  2. What comments do you have on the calls to action? Would you choose different ones?
  3. Can you help us work out how to achieve these goals? For instance, maybe you or your organization are already working in these areas and can share your thinking, or maybe you could commit to actions that would inspire others to join in.

Please reply to hello @ foodmanifesto.wales, neu ysgrifennwch at helo @ maniffestobwyd.cymru.

(You can see the current draft here: first draft of the Manifesto)

 

 

 

Manifesto for food to nourish a healthy society: the opportunity

By Jane Powell. This article was published in the Western Mail on 13 February 2018

A report from the Wales Centre for Public Policy published last month forecasts tough times ahead for Welsh farming. It recommends, amongst other things, investment in longer-term partnerships between government, food retailers and others to grow business networks across Wales.

Meanwhile, in other circles, there is concern that the food industry is suffering from a skills shortage (and an image problem) and that it needs to do more to tackle public health problems such as obesity and diabetes.

Elsewhere again, there are social concerns. Increasing demand for food banks has led to the formation by Welsh Government of a Food Poverty Network. Children are growing up in a world where food comes from the supermarket shelf, and there is an epidemic of loneliness: people of all ages who eat alone, and not by choice.

It seems that the crisis facing farming is part of a much bigger picture of social disconnection from where our food comes from, where competing points of view struggle for air time in the rush to promote simple solutions. The pressures of Brexit only serve to intensify the discord.

But if the threat to farming subsidies and export markets provides a painful stimulus to action, it also gives us permission to think more deeply than before and question received truths. Discussions about food readily reveal ideological splits – the current debate about meat-eating being just one of them – but food by its very nature also brings people together.

While we may have very different views on what constitutes sustainable food production and makes for a nutritious diet, we can nevertheless agree on some shared values. We surely all want to see a Wales where everyone has enough to eat, food is of high quality, and we are fair in our dealings with each other.

Fortunately, we have some new structures to support a fresh approach to food. One is the Well-Being of Future Generations Act, which requires public bodies to act in a more collaborative way with business and civil society, and thus gives NGOs a new opportunity to step up and be heard. Another is the Assembly’s Rethinking Food in Wales consultation (closed, but still in progress).

There are also many encouraging initiatives that use food to cross sectors and silos. The Nature Friendly Farming Network honours the unity of food production and care for the environment. Food Cardiff brings together the public sector, academia and community groups to tackle problems such as school holiday hunger. The UK campaign Peas Please includes supermarkets, farmers, caterers and others in a bid to increase vegetable production and consumption.

There is a bigger question here. Could it be that the future of food and farming is not simply a practical challenge, to be sorted by new partnerships, but also a means to creating a more connected society and thus tackling many of our social ills? Food creates a human connection which is ultimately closer to most people’s hearts than money. We want a thriving economy, but it should be in support of human happiness, not the other way around.

That is the thinking behind the Wales Food Manifesto. The process began in 2015, with the support of Sustainable Futures Commissioner Peter Davies and former environment minister Jane Davidson, and can be described as a conversation that is gaining momentum. The aim is to develop food policy from the bottom up, with regular blog posts on our website from individuals and organizations.

Last week the Manifesto took another step with a public meeting at the National Botanic Garden, where speakers from the RSPB, NFU, Transition Bro Gwaun, Wright’s Food Emporium, Just Food Abergavenny and Food Cardiff set out their aspirations and considered how a national food network or alliance could support them to be more effective, for the good of everyone.

Taking part in the discussions which followed were representatives from different parts of the food chain from field to fork, as well as groups with a community or health focus. Some were senior members of staff in national organizations, some were self-employed people taking a day away from their businesses, while others were volunteers making inspiring contributions to their local communities through gardening, shared meals and debates.

We need all points of view to get the full picture, and last Friday was just a beginning. We won’t agree on every detail of the perfect food system – far from it – but by coming together to learn from each other, we can find some new ways forward.

Os hoffech ddod yn rhan o’r Maniffesto a helpu llunio’r system fwyd yng Nghymru, dilynwch chi yma neu e-bostio helo [at] maniffestobwyd.cymru.

If you would like to get involved with the Manifesto and help shape the food system in Wales, please follow us here or get in touch at hello [at] foodmanifesto.wales.