On 12 June, Tom and I drove to Edinburgh to represent the Leeds Food Partnership (LFP) at the Sustainable Food Cities annual conference. It was an excellent couple of days surrounded by inspiring people all working to bring about change to their local food systems.
The conference began with an awards dinner that celebrated the achievements of Manchester and Middlesbrough in attaining the SFC Bronze Award and London the Silver Award – all very impressive and definitely something Leeds will aspire too. Following the meal we got caught up in a frenetic Ceilidh, which was the perfect way to get initiated into the network!
The following morning representatives from the network of 50 member cities, towns, boroughs, plus those looking to join and develop food partnerships, attended the conference to work together to build on the good food work happening across the country.
Over the course of the day I attended two workshops – the first focussed on building a local good food movement, where we heard about the experiences of Brighton and Hove, Bristol and Cambridge, all of which have taken different paths to building strong food movements in their cities. The discussions focussed on the importance of engaging across a broad range of stakeholders, which the LFP already recognizes and is building a firm foundation through our partnership working. There’s a lot of fantastic food work happening across Leeds and it is important that this work is supported and celebrated. Meanwhile, Tom was at a workshop on how best to engage with businesses, and how local award and recognition schemes can motivate businesses to get actively involved in promoting and providing healthy and sustainable food.
The second workshop focused on getting the basics right and was aimed at new food partnerships that are just getting started, like us in Leeds. It is well documented that the food partnerships that are most likely to succeed are those built on firm foundations, involving the right people and the right process. We heard from Leicester, which has been going for quite a while, as well as Aberdeen that like Leeds is in the early stages.
Throughout the conference it was clear that Leeds has a lot of great work happening all across the food system and now it’s the time to pull it together and develop an integrated approach to food for the city. Tom’s workshop with Ben Messer explored Sustainable Food Cities new ‘health check’ interactive tool for assessing the strength or your SFC partnership and programme, as well as providing a Q&A and learning exchange session on how to strengthen key aspects with SFC staff and practitioners.
In closing, Ben Reynolds from Sustain, one of SFC’s partner organizations, suggested that SFC was no longer a network of cities but the beginning of a good food movement. A network shares ideas and information, whereas a movement creates change.
It’s fantastic that Leeds is part of this movement and working to bring about change both here in Leeds as well as across the country. The LFP is aiming to achieve the SFC Bronze Award in 2018, but to do this we need the help of charities, businesses, academia, Leeds City Council, community groups, NHS and individuals to join the Leeds Food Partnership and to commit to working together to achieve the aims and objectives of the upcoming Leeds Food Charter.
For more information about the Leeds Food Partnership and how you can get involved, please contact Sonja.firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on Twitter @LeedsFoodP