Another Meal is Possible Falkirk Workshop

The Friends of the Earth Falkirk food event on the 1 November was an invitation to talk about a meal. You can’t talk about food without getting hungry so the event started with food. Soup made with local. organic produce and Fairtrade tea and coffee. 

The workshop started with an introduction to some of the food campaigns Friends of the Earth Falkirk have been involved in over the past 7 years. The group have explored local food through shared meals where people are encouraged to bring a dish and talk about the food issues which the dish represent. The concept of a LOAF meal. *Local, Organic and/ or Fairtrade The phrase was shared at a talk on the Fife Diet by Mike Small in Falkirk at the start of the Fife Diet project. The six themes of the Fife Diet were shared with the group:

Eat Local (80/20 split)
Compost more
Waste less
Be more organic
Eat less meat
And grow some of their own food

Friends of the Earth Falkirk have campaigned on all the Fife Diet themes. This has included stalls to promote of local food on Falkirk High Street, workshops in reducing packaging waste within the community which led to an action outside Morrison’s Supermarket with group members dressed as peppers wrapped in cellophane with the banner “Let us breath” to highlight that individual peppers were being packaged totally unnecessary in the store.

Over the past 5 years the group has also developed 4 community gardens in central Falkirk, including a vegetable garden just of Falkirk High Street. The highlight of the community garden year is the Soup and Stovies event which produces a meal from the harvest from the vegetable garden. A meal which is rooted in Falkirk and celebrates local  food and volunteering.

There was 9 participants at the workshop 4 members of the local group and 5 guests who responded to the invitation to (talk about) a meal. Norman Philip, who was facilitating the session, explained there was talk about a food event would simply be “preaching to the converted”. It was hoping that everyone at the session were passionate about food and would be willing to share their passion.  The hope for the session was that those present would consider some individual actions they could take and help shape future Friends of the Earth campaigns on food in Falkirk.

At the start of the workshop everyone was given a paper plate and asked to draw their favourite meal. People were then asked to share their favourite meal and explain where they get the ingredients from.

By sharing what everyones favourite meal was within the group there was discussion about the emotional link to food. Someone shared their birthday meal that has become a family tradition, someone else shared their favourite dish which their mother used to make which they now are able to make, including growing all the ingredients them self. Other themes included the pleasure of food and importantly the taste of food. The aim of this first exercise was to highlight that food is not just a commodity which we buy and sell. When people explained were they bought, or for some grew, the ingredients there was a discussion about the lack of local food available in Falkirk. The few shops that have sold local food in Falkirk Town Centre have either closed or moved out of town. Supermarkets have dominated the food market, even for “converted” shoppers who care where their food comes from. There ware some great examples of locally produced food, including flour, veg box boxes schemes and dairy. And some examples of attempts to improve access to local food that hasn’t worked, like the monthly Friday farmers market, which people think is a shadow of its former self.

Using the themes of Local, Organic and Fairtrade people were asked to think of some of the options available that could make their favourite dishes more sustainable.

People Matter
The second exercise involved thinking about all the people who would be involved in the production of their local meal taking into account every ingredient- including herbs, spices, and oils. This prompted a discussion on the hidden people involved in the growing, processing, distribution and retail of food, which is often invisible- both in terms of the conditions of the workers and within the price of the food. Even people who grew a lot of their own food recognised the human web which surrounds their diet. 

How can our food be so cheap, in relative terms, when so many people are involved in the food system which feeds us?

The Environment Matter
The third section of the discussion considered the energy involve in the production of our food and the impact on the environment. 

What are the energy inputs required to get our food to our tables?

Think about the need for oil at every stage of of the production of your meal.

The energy used to produce our food also has an impact on the communities which live by the production of that energy and the agrochemical products used in the global food system. Less than three miles from the workshop there is an oil refinery operated by Ineos and a gas plant operated by BP, with a pipeline direct to North Sea oil platforms.  Also in the town of Grangemouth there is a Syngenta factory, one of the biggest biotech corporations in the world, and Calachem who also produce agrochemicals. Friends of the Earth Falkirk have campaigned on the Environmental Justice issues associated with a community living on the fence line of so many polluting factories in one town. 

The exploitation of onshore oil and gas through Coal Bed Methane and Shale Gas through drilling and Fracking is the latest threat to the communities around Falkirk would be risk   of contaminate of our food system.

Food sovereignty

To finish the discussion Norman introduced the group to a new concept- Food sovereignty 
Norman showed a picture on Via Campesina he took on the streets of Paris during the UN Climate Change Talks.

Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.

The Nyéléni forum collated a set of six 'Pillars of Food Sovereignty' which now form the accepted definition of Food Sovereignty:

1.    Focuses on food for people - values the right to sufficient, healthy, culturally appropriate food, rejecting the proposition that food is just another commodity.
2.    Values food providers - values and supports contributions from all food providers, and rejects policies, actions and programmes that undervalue them.
3.    Localises food systems - brings food providers and consumers closer together
4.    Puts control locally - places control over natural resources in the hands of local food providers and respects their rights
5.    Builds knowledge and skills - supports the passing of wisdom to future generations, rejecting technologies that undermine, threaten or contaminate this (e.g. genetic engineering)
6.    Works with nature - values the contributions of nature, and rejects methods that harm beneficial ecosystem functions, damage the environment & contribute to global warming  

Individual pledges and community action

The session ended with the reminder that even by preaching to the converted there is a hope that everyone who attended would take some personal action following the discussion and inputs. 

Individual Actions

Increase the amount of local food and eat and support Scottish growers more often

I have become too reliant on supermarkets again- commit to move back to alternatives 

Focus on packaging of food

By direct from local shops and local producers 

cook from scratch more

Find more locally sourced veg etc

I will buy grains elsewhere versus supermarkets

What should Friends of the Earth Falkirk Campaign on:        Campaigns Rooted in Falkirk 

I’d like to see a resource of where to buy local food and information on how to start gowing food myself. 

Engage with procurement in Falkirk Council for food to buy specific local organic foods
menu planning so overall budget may actually be reduced.

Community cooking and eating sessions

promote food for free  Rasps, Elders, Rosehips, Haws

More gardening\ food growing

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