Community

Let’s talk about food

Aber Food Forum: Community Cafe kitchen (Pic. Alun Williams)

ABER FOOD FORUM are staging regular Community Cafe events in Aberystwyth.

The idea is that people come along, share a meal, enjoy good company and talk together about food-related issues. The meals are prepared with surplus food donated by Morrisons supermarket. At the last Community Cafe on January 10, supper was served to 25 people in Taste on Terrace Road. The idea for Aber Food Forum grew out of conversations between Naomi Salmon and Jane Powell in the wake of the latter’s Food Values project, which was led by Organic Centre Wales.

Food Values researched how people’s values could inform the delivery of successful food education.

A FOOD UMBRELLA

Naomi Salmon told The Herald: “Basically, what had become clear to both of us was that whilst there is a lot going on in and around Aber in terms of food-related activities, there was no ‘umbrella’ network or any sort of obvious forum that could help to bring all these fabulous initiatives and interested citizens together.

“Projects and groups such as Edible Mach, local community gardens, such as Borth Community Gardens and Tyfu Aber, ethical small businesses etcetera, all play a crucial role in the local food landscape but, for a variety of reasons, and to varying degrees, there is something of disconnect or lack of coherence across what we describe broadly as ‘our local food environment’. If we imagine a landscape, it’s sort of like a patchwork of amazing fertility and vibrant growth but with various hills obscuring the broader view.”

“The last few years have witnessed a real groundswell of concern about the way the current food system functions and a strong desire in many people to see, and to create, positive change.

“We felt that if we set up a sort of ‘hub’, we could provide a good platform for individuals, community groups, vegetable growers, farmers, small food businesses and activists to come together. It felt that while we all know broadly what’s going on within our various social and work ‘bubbles’, it’s often the case that there are great things going on that we don’t know about.

“How brilliant it would be, we thought, to facilitate the strengthening and broadening of our vibrant local food system. How amazing it would be to create a forum for skills-sharing, awareness raising and conversations about food. So, as a first step, we created the Facebook group page and started running more or less monthly ‘Community Cafe’ events. These are themed evening events which have proven to be successful and very enjoyable. I’ve certainly met people who I might not have connected with otherwise.

“We’ve had sessions where Aber Food Surplus have talked about their work and motivations and have also provided and cooked the meal. We’ve had evenings of talks about cider-making and the wonders of sauerkraut. We’ve even had a poetry evening.”

HALVE FOOD WASTE BY 2030

On the broader view, campaigners have called on the EU to halve food waste by 2030. If this initiative was adopted, it would eliminate 44 million tonnes of food waste every year in the UK alone. On Tuesday (Jan 24), the European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted on new regulations that will determine food waste policy for the next 15 years. The campaign is backed by 42 organisations from 15 countries. More than 47,000 people have signed an online petition supporting the initiative. The committee duly voted for the Circular Economy Package. Although MEPs also strengthened legislation to halve food waste by 2030, the target remains voluntary and non-binding.

Martin Bowman, a campaigner with Machynlleth-based organisation This is Rubbish, which started the UK public petition, said: “The circular economy package has potential to be the most ambitious food waste agreement in the world, and that’s urgently needed – both for the environment and the millions suffering from food poverty in Europe.”

This is Rubbish estimate that the 88 million tonnes of food wasted in EU countries every year could feed the 55 million people designated as living in food poverty in Europe more than nine times over. France and Italy already have national schemes to reduce food waste. This month, the UK’s major supermarkets have faced questions from a parliamentary inquiry about food waste in their supply chains.

Although supermarkets do make some effort to redistribute out-of-date but still edible food via charities and food banks, at less than 2% of their total surpluses, their contribution is much less than in other European countries.

NEXT ON THE MENU IN ABER

Aber Food Forum has grown to a core team of five, incorporating people who set up Aber Food Surplus. The Forum are looking for more volunteers to join their organising committee as they move forward. The next Community Cafe will be on Tuesday, February 7 at 6.30pm – see the group’s Facebook page for details of the venue. The evening will have a marine-environment conservation theme, which is highly topical due to the implications of Brexit for marine conservation. The Herald is reasonably certain Cardigan Bay scallops will not be in the menu. On Monday, February 13, from 2pm to 7pm in the Morlan Centre, Aber Food Forum in collaboration with Cynnal y Cardi have organised a ‘visioning afternoon’ entitled ‘Let’s Talk About Food’, inviting everyone to ‘drop in for a quick cuppa and chat or stay for the whole afternoon’. They particularly want to meet anyone involved in local food projects, members of community gardens, and people making and processing food locally. Aber Food Forum are interested in the food issues that concern people and their families.

They would like to improve the availability of locally produced food and build on ‘all the great work that is already being done in our little corner of Wales’.

We asked Naomi Salmon what people who support the aims of Aber Food Forum should do: “Join us! Come along to the next Community Cafe event. Come along to our bigger ‘visioning’ day at the Morlan. Bring your knowledge, skills, passion, energy and desire for change! We can all make a difference and in a world where the global challenges we face can feel overwhelming, grassroots local action can be very empowering!”

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Dayne Stone

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