Europe Direct Leeds recently held a one day event attended by 165 people in all which aimed to engage professionals and ordinary citizens (both young and old) in a debate on food, farming, waste and sustainability. The event was funded by the European Commission through our Europe Direct Leeds Service – www.europedirectleeds.org.uk
Held at the prestigious venue, Leeds City Museum Arena, the morning session was a panel discussion chaired by Councillor Adam Ogilvie, Lead Member for Leisure. Our audience included students from Guiseley School – working with Sustainable Schools co-ordinator, Steve Ruse- we invited High Schools from across Leeds, in particular Years 11,12,& 13 students studying Science, Geography, Politics, Food Technology, Business Studies, Environmental Science and Citizenship. There were also members of the public, local community and activist groups and professionals.
We were very thrilled to have Linda McAvan, MEP for Yorkshire and Humber, giving a thought provoking talk on the European perspective. She gave an overview of the actions the EU are taking to tackle issues such as:
- How can we promote fair trade and ensure farmers get a fair price for produce yet encourage people here to buy locally?
- Why the EU needs to work with the governments in Africa to bring development to arid and semi-arid areas to strengthen agricultural and livestock-based livelihoods.
- She touched on a new ‘Health Check‘ of the Common Agricultural Policy and monitoring of the retail sector under the Single Market Review.
- Initiatives to enhance agricultural supply and ensure food security (including sustainable biofuels), strengthening agricultural research and knowledge dissemination, especially in developing countries;
- Offering the world’s poorest countries preferential access to the EU market to tackle the effects of price rises;
- Responding quickly to immediate short-term humanitarian needs;
- Longer term development aid to revitalise developing country agriculture.
Our next speaker, George Munson, Senior Climate Change Officer in Leeds, gave the low-down on climate in Leeds, how it’s changing and what we can do to reduce emissions. A big message is that Leeds residents need to be more aware of environmental issues and why action is needed and how to limit their own impact on the environment by making positive behavioural changes
Leeds has a climate change pledge which has 150 actions which people can act on to make a personal reduction. He also spoke about involving young people, using space creatively to grow food and using ‘community harvests’ for example picking fruit people don’t want or can’t harvest for others to enjoy!
He ended by posing these challenges:
- How much food is needed to feed people in Leeds?
- How much is wasted?
- How much is grown locally?
- How much MORE could be grown?
- How much LESS could be wasted?
See www.leedsinitiative.org/environment for details.
John Preston, West Yorkshire Manager from BCTV, a charity set up in 1959 which has a successful history of environmental conservation volunteering throughout the UK and around the world, talked about “What can we grow in Leeds” His focus was the domestic angle within the urban area. He gave a really interesting perspective on many of the changes, for example, how using gardens has changed since the war –many are now in part concreted over to provide parking
- Changes since World War 2
- Challenges – our lack of gardens, other uses for gardens, and a decreasing gardening skills base
- The state of current growing- allotments, community gardens
- Initiatives which include ‘Garden 2 Eat’, ‘the Research’, ‘Back to Front’, ‘Edible Public Space’, ‘Urban Harvest’, ‘Master Gardeners’
- Policy development (Multifunctional Urban landscapes, Leeds Met Design future visions)
see www.btcv.org for details.
Briony Pete, Regional Coordinator (Yorkshire and Humber), Love Food Hate Waste Campaign spoke about the ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ campaign.
Thought provoking facts such as “The average UK household wastes enough food every year to make 1000 meals” and the link between reducing food waste and health.
She stressed the importance of working in partnership with other organisations when it comes to food, as the issues cross many boundaries. For example, working with students to cook healthy meals from sustainable produce encourages them to eat more cheaply but also more healthily.
She highlighted several campaigns now taking place to raise awareness. www.wastewatch.org.uk
Finally Dr. Charlie Clutterbuck who has worked as a Specialist Adviser (2009) EFRA Select Committee “Securing Food Supplies to 2030“, Member Lantra’s England Council, Hon Research Fellow, Centre for Food Policy, City University, Trustee Food Ethics Council & PAN-UK, Representative (NW) on National Rural & Agric Workers Union (Unite) and Director Environmental Practice @Work Ltd spoke about eenvironmental, social and economic issues in farming and the science behind it. His stimulating talk covered topics such as:
- Many developing country producers go hungry – hence Fairtrade, yet ‘Globesity’ is just about everywhere.
- How we need to produce ‘more food more sustainably’
- Combining the food security and sustainability agendas; sustainable food is that which is ‘healthier for people and the planet’
- SF is broad – not just a bit of organic and fair-trade
- We’ve ‘left it to the markets/supermarkets’ for last 30 years
- The end of cheap food nigh
- How the UK is 40% dependent on imported crops
- Rises in world food prices creates tension that has led to uprisings
- UK inflation is due to external food and oil rises
- UK imports 15 Billion tonnes of food we could produce ourselves
- Inflation will lead to interest hikes, real crisis
- We could at least feed ourselves.
The audience were able to pose their own thought provoking questions to the panel, and Councillor Ogilvie gave an excellent summing up.
We all want to do more locally to raise awareness of the issues, so watch this space
In the afternoon, we held a ‘Marketplace’ event, open to the public with the following stall holders:
- Love Food Hate Waste (with bike to pedal your own smoothie)
- West Yorkshire Archives – ‘Make do and mend’
- Discovery Centre Food objects though the ages
- Europe Direct Leeds, answering questions on policy and providing information
- Climate Control
- Fresh N Fruity
- Ministry of Food
- Eat Well (healthy living initiatives)
- The Growing Lady – how to nurture your own plants
- Borrow a book and grow your own – Leeds Library and Information Service
Written by Lynette Falconer