Feeding Manchester #13

Feeding Manchester #13 took place last Saturday,13 July at Bridge 5 Mill in Manchester. It was a beautiful, sunny summer day. Despite this, over 50 dedicated members of Greater Manchester's sustainable food network, representing over 30 different organisations, spent their day indoors engaged in discussions, workshops and presentations focusing on how we can make Greater Manchester a Sustainable Food City.

The attendees came from across Greater Manchester's sustainable food network, including members of the third sector, co-operatives, independent businesses, activist groups, social enterprises and the public sector. People travelled in from across Greater Manchester, including Stockport, Bolton, Salford and beyond!

We began the day with quick introductions to each other, and to the Feeding Manchester project led by Chris and Helen of the Kindling Trust.  We then moved on to 5-minute speed presentations given by four groups working in different sectors of sustainable food.

We began with a talk by Alan of Glebelands City Growers, a market garden in Sale. He told us a bit about who they are, what they grow, how they grow it and where they sell it. He ended his presentation by making the point that he and his co-operative members make only £6.40/hour, which reveals how grossly undervalued agricultural work, the work that feeds us, is. Next, we heard from Katie of Manchester Veg People who explained their exciting and growing business, and made an appeal for support in their crowdfunding campaign. Next we heard from Vicky of Apples for Eggs about her food swap community which began in Altrincham and now has groups in York and Ormskirk as well. Last, we heard from Leonie of GM-free Greater Manchester. This group is working to raise awareness about GM food, specifically the use of GM cooking oil. You can learn more about their campaign here.

After the speed presentation, we were given an outline of the current sector by Chris from the Kindling Trust. He highlighted some of the star players in the sector and all the great work they're doing. We were then introduced to the Sustainable Food Cities initiative by Ben from Sustain.

Then, it was time to break into groups and begin discussions. We separated into three groups: growers, distributors/retailers, and an awareness-raising/education/policy group. This groups were the basis of our discussions for the remainder of the day.

Once in our break-out groups we began by filling a 'sweetie jar' with what we'd like a Greater Manchester sustainable food city to look like in 10 years. These suggestions represented our ideal system. After this, we took some time to do a SWOT exercise where we identifed our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to our sector to get a better idea of where we are and where we're going.

After all of this we were hungry! We adjourned to have a delicious lunch prepared by Foodlink Card Partner, The Kitchen Coop. Instead of soup on this hot summer's day we had a selection of delicious Turkish style salads and amazing cakes.

Once our bellies were full, we had a quick feedback session out in the garden, which was a great excuse to spend some time outside. Next, however, we were back to our groups where we used our 'sweetie' jars and SWOT analysis to come up with concrete commitments that are achievable. This session was especially difficult. While it's easy to imagine how we'd like things, or to look at the current picture, it's much harder to say with certainty what we will do. One of the questions 'How do we work together?' lay at the heart of the issue – we need to be able to cooperate and to have strong support and guidance from within the sustainable food sector if we want to achieve real change.

To wrap up, commitments from the three break-out groups were presented to the group and participants were asked to prioritise them. The day ended with a quick summation from the hosts and a glass of well-deserved Pimms in the garden.

Notes from the day:

Notes Part 1 & Notes Part 2.