Over a sunny couple of days, the first face-to-face Sustainable Food Places conference since 2019 and the COVID pandemic took place at St. Catherine’s College in Oxford.
160+ good food champions from all four UK nations gathered to celebrate successes, share experiences and ideas and debate the best ways to launch, distribute and maintain healthy, sustainable, and local food for all. Representatives from Wales’ seven Sustainable Food Partnerships attended the conference alongside team members from Food Sense Wales, SFP’s national partner in Wales.
Food Cardiff strategy board member Camilla Lovelace has shared some of her key takeaways from the conference with us in this guest blog post.
“The SFP conference was extremely well attended with representatives from many different food partnerships and organisations from all areas of the UK.
Cllr Mark Lygo from Good Food Oxfordshire gave the welcoming speech, and spoke about how food can be both a source of and a solution to the health and climate crises. He was followed by Kath Dalmeny, the Chief Executive of Sustain, who gave an unreserved welcome to the people who are working hard to ensure everyone in the UK has access to good food. She spoke of the opportunities delegates had to become very involved in Learning, Listening and Sharing. She briefly highlighted the fantastic progress being made in Wales and our track record of putting policies into practice, and the Good Food Nation Bill that has been passed in Scotland. These two devolved nations have provided good examples on how demands can be made on decision makers using language they want to hear.
Louise Denham, from our close neighbours at Food Vale, contributed to a lively panel discussion during the morning session. The discussion emphasised the work being done to shorten local supply chains, and the value of supporting local agriculture and community food growing. Brighton and Hove shared some work they have been doing on researching and demonstrating the value of allotments to local authorities, which may be useful for our community growing groups here in Wales and the Edible Cardiff Network.
Participants were split into workshops, with a variety to choose from; attendees from Food Matters and Sustain led a participatory workshop to demonstrate good practice in wider participation in Good food Movements. They spoke about the importance of engaging those who are not currently ‘living and breathing’ food issues to get involved; how to strengthen member voices and in turn, strengthen community voices.
Participants were also given an opportunity to listen to a Good Food conversation between Talia from Glasgow and Fiona from Calderdale. Glasgow has produced a citizen-led democratised food strategy which has brought in underrepresented groups. Their dandelion festival involved workshopping ‘the world we want to see’ with participants – something we could replicate here in Cardiff.
It was also great to hear about Brighton’s Sustainable Food Places journey from the Director of Brighton and Hove Food Partnership; Brighton has Gold Sustainable Food Places status (whereas Cardiff currently has silver) and in their city, they are changing the conversations around food; e.g. not talking about Food Waste, but Food Use. They believe in the power of local composting so they have community ‘food use places’ with community composting and a Surplus Food Network. Inspiring stuff.
Our Food Cardiff Coordinator, Pearl Costello, joined the workshop led by SOS-UK on applying diversity & inclusion principles to food partnership work, which resonated with Food Cardiff’s approach of building an inclusive and accessible grassroots food movement. She also attended a talk highlighting Dumfries and Galloway and Gloucestershire’s work to involve farmers and growers in their food partnership, which is what Cardiff’s Fringe Farming work is aiming to do.
Finally, the conference was an opportunity to celebrate the Sustainable Food Places Silver award that Cardiff won in 2021 – recognising the city’s work to ensure good food for all; you can read more about that here.
We left the two-day conference buzzing with ideas and ready to rise to the challenge of turning Cardiff into a gold-standard Sustainable Food Place; you can find out more about this ambition and what we’re doing to get there in the Cardiff Good Food Strategy 21 – 24.”
Want to know more? Cathy Cliff, Policy Advisor from the Soil Association, has also shared her experience of the SFP Conference 2023 which you can read here.
You can also read more about Sustainable Food Places in Wales here.