On Friday 6th November Sustainable Food Cities (SFC) hosted a Northern Networking Event in Edinburgh, Scotland. Anna Clayton reports back…
I had wanted to attend the conference to learn about the Scottish SFC movement and what it was doing to tackle the many issues associated with sustainable food production, access and distribution; and how Scotland’s approach differs to England’s approach.
For those of you that don’t know, Sustainable Food Cities is a network of towns, boroughs and counties across the UK that have set up groups committed to increasing access to sustainable food in a group’s local area. There are currently 44 SFC groups across the UK, including one in Lancaster and a county wide Lancashire group.
Each SFC group is made up of individuals from a range of sectors including private sector, public sector and third sector. For example, Lancaster’s SFC group has a representative from public health, local and county council, from the voluntary and community food growing sector, and a local food business.
The SFC network is supported by the Soil Association, Food Matters and Sustain, and focuses its work around six key issues: promoting healthy and sustainable food to the public; tackling food poverty and poor health; building community knowledge, skills, resources and projects; promoting diverse sustainable food economies; transforming catering and food procurement; reducing waste and the environmental impacts of the food system.
The conference in Edinburgh was primarily made up of the Scottish groups, in addition to representatives from Ireland, Liverpool, Durham, Brighton, Carlisle, Stockport, Oxford, Bournemouth and Lancaster. Each group used the SFC model but applied it in different ways.
The key take home message was: ‘the tortoise approach is best’. That it takes time to build relationships, trust and interest. That the more diverse the partnerships, the stronger and more resilient food movements become. After all, together we are stronger!
It was raised that people are increasingly busy and time constrained, especially businesses and farmers, and that the best way to involve a variety of groups is to use a variety of different methods; methods that are suited to the local culture.
I left Edinburgh feeling very envious about the support the Scottish government is giving (through funding and time) to the SFC movement. It was enough to make me want to move to Scotland!
I also felt comforted with the knowledge that groups all over the UK are facing similar challenges – such as engaging with the private sector- and that experiences are being built upon and shared to help overcome these challenges.
To find out more about the SFC movement visit sustainablefoodcities.org