Council explores recipe for sustainable food campaign

Press Release: 20/09/2016

Farmers' market

Winchester City Council is hosting a discussion morning for local organisations and individuals interested in developing a ‘sustainable food’ culture.

The stakeholder event takes place on the morning of Wednesday 12 October at the Vineyard Church at Bar End.

It will provide an opportunity to think about key food issues for the city and surrounding area, and to explore the potential for the Council to lead a co-ordinated campaign to promote more action in this area.

Cllr Frank Pearson, the Council’s Portfolio Holder for Environment, Health and Wellbeing, commented:

The issues surrounding food production and distribution fill the pages of our newspapers and form the subject of many television and radio programmes these days. Whilst a number of our teams are involved in related areas of work - such as animal welfare, food safety, health and wellbeing and economic development - we haven’t traditionally taken the lead. This event gives us a chance to explore some of the positive action already being taken in the Winchester district and to see if people feel we can add value by playing a stronger, community leadership role.

Whilst there is no single definition of ‘sustainable food’, Sustain – The Alliance for Better Food and Farming – states that food should be ‘produced, processed, distributed and disposed of’ in ways that make a positive contribution to the economy (both in the UK and in the producer countries). It should also protect the diversity and wellbeing of plants and animals; avoid wasting natural resources or aggravating climate change, and provide social benefits ranging from good quality food to educational opportunities.

The stakeholder event was prompted, at the outset, by a formal Motion to Cabinet from the former councillor Janet Berry. She asked the Council to endorse the notion that:

food is essential to life, has a major influence on health and wellbeing, is important in our ability to participate in society, that poor diet is a significant contributor to ill-health, and that food poverty is damaging to the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities.

She also asked for

action on food [to provide] an opportunity not only to address these issues, but also to improve the economy and vitality of the city, promoting a vibrant and varied sustainable food economy.” Finally, she felt that the Council should be “concerned that more needs to be done to reduce food waste and the impact of the food system on the environment.

Stakeholders will be asked to reflect on a range of courses of action for Winchester. These could include creating a Sustainable Food Partnership, joining the national Sustainable Food Cities Network or holding a year-long campaign to raise awareness and increase impact of existing activities.

Seb Mayfield, who is at the forefront of the community food movement and has been dubbed ‘an urban food guru’ by Time Out London, has assisted the Council in co-ordinating the day and will be chairing the event. He said:

We have some examples of excellent practice in this area, notably the University of Winchester, which is the only university in Europe to have a free-range meat policy. But much of the work currently taking place revolves around the distribution of affordable food, such as excess produce from supermarkets or public donations to food banks. There is scope to do much more, but that will take commitment from a wide range of stakeholders. The Council can provide leadership, but it’s a question of ‘all hands on deck’ if we really care about making our food more sustainable.