Stir To Action: Bring It To The Table

“Our decisions about food are complicated by the fact that we don’t eat alone. Table fellowship has forged social bonds as far back as the archaeological record allows us to look. Food, family, and memory are primordially linked.”

FoodCycle Bristol features in this brilliant STIR article on UK projects that are finding solutions and bringing communities together through food.

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Incredible Edible


Back in the 60’s, Incredible Edibles were a brand of strange culinary toys. They came in the form of a series of circular metal molds into which Gooble De-Goop, a candy-like gel formulated by inventor Don Lusk, was squeezed. Once the Gooble De-Goop had set to the mold, the substance was then placed in a special small oven and baked, finally producing alien rubbery soft edible candies in the shape of worms and insects.

Fast forward to 2012 and the tag Incredible Edible is increasingly associated with a different kind of magic transformation, still involving food and worms, but this time the formula isn’t Gooble De-Goop, it makes complete sense!!

In a short space of time, the Incredible Edible movement has spread to towns across the country, gathering pace as word reaches from Rossendale to Wakefield, and from Totnes to Lambeth, with many other projects in between.

All these initiatives are linked by a vision that began in the Lancashire Pennines town of Todmorden in 2008, when an urban community set out to transform the local environment and empower the local population by growing food.

The town’s residents have taken over carparks, grass verges, graveyards, roadsides, school yards, health centers and every conceivable space imaginable to turn into edible landscapes. Starting off initially ‘guerrilla-gardening’ – planting without permission on unused public space – the team of local residents soon gained the support of the public sector and private landowners and found themselves with a wealth of free ground to work on. All the towns schools are involved, growing food in raised beds and teaching students the basics in harvesting and preparation. Over 600 fruit trees have been planted so far, that’s 1 for every 2.5 residents, there are 40 growing sites in the town centre and 33% of residents take part in Incredible Edible Todmorden activities.

Co-founder and voice of the movement Pam Warhurst is an inspirational leader and communicator, this short interview recorded at a NESTA, Making Innovation Flourish conference is well worth taking a few minutes to watch.

 

Incredible Edible Todmorden was one of 25 case study initiatives featured at the conference and in the accompanying handbook:

“Against the context of rapid economic, social and environmental change, a collective reflection is taking place on how to build more sustainable routes to share prosperity. In the meantime, an increasing number and wide range of change-makers have already found ways to imagine and grow a different economy in our cities, towns, neighbourhoods and villages.

This publication presents 25 case studies of the civic economy – rooted in age-old traditions of the associational economy but using new organising tactics, ways of connecting with people and approaches to collaborative investment.

They show that the civic economy is already a real, vital and growing part of many places, which actively contributes to community resilience, everyday innovation and shared prosperity. They also reveal how local leaders – that is, all those working together to improve places and their economies, whether in the public, private or third sector – can create the fertile ground for the civic economy to flourish and grow. Most importantly, the remarkable achievements of these 25 trailblazers show why we need to get better at understanding and recognising the role of civic entrepreneurship and enable it to turn ideas into action and impact.”

The document is free to read, download and print here: http://www.nesta.org.uk/todmorden/assets/features/compendium_for_the_civic_economy

The Incredible Edible programs form just one part of a wider development in the UK towards growing more food locally. With projects like Bristol based East Side Roots promoting the virtues of farming close to home, we will certainly be returning to cover more of the work being done in this exciting area.


The Big Issue for 2012

As we move into the new year, looking back at 2011 and to what 2012 has in store, it is inspiring to see discussion and activity around food issues on the increase and thriving.

A report from communications company JWT lists “Food As The New Eco-Issue” as one of its 10 key trends for the year to come, saying “The environmental impact of our food choices will become a more prominent concern as stakeholders – brands, governments and activist organisations – drive awareness around the issue and rethink what kind of food is sold and how it’s made. As more regions battle with food shortages and/or spiking costs, smarter practices around food will join the stable of green best practices.”

“Cleaning Up London’s Leftovers” – the front cover article in the most recent issue of ethical eating magazine The Jellied Eel featuring champion food waste activist, author of landmark food waste expose WASTE, and previous guest speaker at FoodCycle Bristol Student Restaurant, Tristram Stuart, describes food waste as London’s unlikely latest intrigue, “whether it’s several tonnes of wonky fruit and veg being cooked up in Trafalgar Square, your local eatery offering up a ‘doggy box’ for leftovers, a growing band of temporary food-waste restaurants ‘popping up’ around town, or the Michelin-starred fine dining establishment turning its food scraps into art installations, this autumn you might find it difficult to get away from the stuff.”

Around the country outside of the capital, exciting initiatives are continuing their mission and new projects are just getting started, from surplus food feasting in Wales to radical vegetable planting in un-used community spaces in Lancashire, there is a genuine sense of movement afoot.

So, as FoodCycle Bristol works to build on the achievements of last year that saw communities coming together around thousands of meals served from excess produce, over the coming weeks this blog will introduce some of the ground breaking food projects going on in the UK that are making things happen in 2012, and of course more on what we’re doing in the South West to make things happen too.