The aim of the Conference was to try and see how food and farming can help develop the 'Preston Model'.
The Conference was organised by the Larder with thanks to Cooperatives UK and Preston City Council
Co Matthew Brown Leader of Preston Council explained how their 're-thinking started. Preston planned to have a new shopping centre - like many Northern towns have done to reconstruct an identity following the demise of the mills in the seventies. but the financial crash hit, and so the backers pulled out. First researched alternative strategies across Europe. Inspired by examples in Spain (employee ownership models) and Germany (co-operatives). Also met Ted Howard from Cleveland Ohio (American Rust Belt) – who shared examples of global bank alternativesThen introduced range of interventions in Preston:a) Started paying more to workers (min wage of £8.75 or more)b) Established a local credit union as an alternative to global banks, to keep more money/wealth within the local economyc) Changed procurement strategies. Lots of institutions in Preston procuring £1bn/yr. Now £75m being procured locally; £539m across Lancashire and have been able to pay many extra jobs at decent living wages.d) Council Pension fund now investing in local communitye) Expanding the co-operative model (to mitigate wealth leakage out of local economy)
Pam Warhurst co-founder of Incredible Edibles, planted the seeds to grow ourselves. She started off planting seeds in the public areas of Todmorden, another bleak old mill old town in the hills. Pam believes that we can grow from the bottom.
'Just go out and plant and it will lead to all sorts of food conversations'. We can look at everything through the lens of food. Food is a way to get into all sorts of debates and issues, so this has taken off in over 200 Incredibly Edible places.
Prof Mark Dooris (UCLAN) Talked about what UCLAN has been doing to promote sustainable food communities and citizenship locally• Taking a ‘whole university approach’ to sustainable food – not just procurement for example, but waste too.• Driverso UN Sustainable Development goalso Campus ‘Master Plan’o Sustainable Procurement Plan locallyo A ‘Healthy Universities initiative’ (longest running example in the world – running now for over 25 years)• 75% of all food at UCLAN procured from within the north-west• Initiatives at UCLAN:o SCRAN – local student initiative to promote local sustainable food sourcing and cookingo Beehives on campuso Student Uniono Edible campus
Runs 'Can Cook' which gets out on the road to provide fresh meals to hundreds of school children who may be suffering from 'food poverty'. They may not be poor to go hungry.
Can Cook provides fresh, healthier catering around Liverpool and Manchester.
He explained with passion why he is committed to doing this. From his experience of the eighties he knows that obesity is related with ultra-processed foods, and so wants to use fresh ingredients to provide healthy meals for those most in need.
Head of Sustain said she was horrified at a recent Select Committee meeting, when the top dogs were asked by the chair, Mary Creagh: "who is responsible for hunger? There was a long silence......before somebody tried to pass the buck. There are reasons to be both gravely concerned and passionately motivated. Why? No explicit (or implied) role (in Westminster) to end food poverty. No resourcing. Supporting local food communities not anywhere to be seen in Westminster (conversations, legislation, manifestos). Food viewed as a commodity rather than within political mainstream - to be exported or imported rather than transform local communities and bring holistic and sustainable prosperity
Kath directed us to RSA Food Farming & Countryside Commission which says we should 'Follow the Money'. See Kath Dalmeny summing up the Conference. She finished with her bombshell that we must challenge the 'cheap food' mantra. It is becoming popular and more acceptable.
SO!! New page Cheap Food dealing with the issues raised See for yourself - from the horses mouth!
Communities Considered how we could work together (even better) to transform communities, around sustainable food.
Pam made the observation that concrete examples of what is actually working now, on the ground, might be the most helpful thing – and something we will be in even a stronger position to talk about a year from now.
Storytelling emerged as a powerful mechanism to facilitate positive change – particularly shining a spot-light on successful innovators and role-models.
As Preston has the ‘unhealthiest high street’ in Britain/ we have a way to go. How do we persuade and link with local businesses to provide healthier food.?
ProcurementThe group had lots of growers but need more buyers (some in another group!), and asked more questions than answered.In particular, they wanted to know Larder's motivations. Is for quality, health or environmental benefits? Is Food for Life the driving motivation?They wanted more information and expert information from public sectors buyers. They felt there was a gap in the knowledge and input from our group of what the public sector is actually looking for.It was considered that the term 'locally-sourced' should be replaced by 'locally-grown' or locally-reared'.
How can LARDER have more social, environmental and financial impact at a local, regional and national level.Thoughts – what is local? Need to raise awareness of this – when food is talked about as being local….is it grown or sourced….. We should use statements like ‘ grown in south Ribble’ more…so people can connect with the localness….
The LARDER should look at focussing on big contracts e.g. NHS/schools to underpin its business model and approach…one big contract would help sustain the organisation. To get the contract the organisation really needs to build the message about local sourcing and the ethical approach…package the message….
Ethical green projects such as the Larder need to think how they connect with your average, normal, everyday people across Preston. These conversations need to start where people are…in communities…in their places…and understand peoples lifestyles….
What the Larder does
Feast for Peace