When we think about the UK in the 21st century, a deprivation of human rights is not the first thing that comes to mind. The right to food, water and shelter is the most basic right to live. Deprivation of this right is surely a problem of the third world where countries’ populations are out of control or in countries that suffer from terrible extremes of weather, unable to grow the most basic of foods or to rear sufficient livestock. It surely cannot be true of the United Kingdom. After all, it is a fertile land suited to every sort of farming imaginable. We are even surrounded by fish!
Food poverty has increased steadily over the last 10 years. The government’s response to the financial crisis of 2009 was to make the financial stability of the UK the top priority and a range of social services have suffered as a result. There is every chance that the Covid induced financial crisis we are about to suffer will be worse. Unemployment is predicted to rise dramatically, bringing with it an increase in social issues. This includes a further heightening of food poverty.
The potential solutions to this crisis fall into two groups. There are those who believe that these issues can only be solved by the government and by centralised management. There are plenty of organisations championing this approach.
The alternative approach focuses on how this can be solved at a local level. When a community sees that some of its people do not have enough food, they will do what they can to help people. When the problem is raised to a national level, those people turn into numbers and statistics. The solution is one of hitting targets rather than caring about people as individuals. Local community solutions are complex, requiring far more than simply providing food for those who do not have enough at that moment. It involves changing the way we think about food, the way food is produced and the way it is used.
Following the end of rationing after the second world war, the western world has embraced simplicity in the way food is produced. We have outsourced the growing of much of our vegetables and fruit. We have come to believe that creating a meal from scratch using dirty vegetables is tedious, and arduous and that we deserve better. We can now open a packet or tin and have our instant meal. Washing up is simpler and faster when we have only to put away the cereal box rather than clean frying pans. Profitability has come before animal welfare, before looking after our land, and before the importance of a healthy diet.
Reversing these ideals seems like an impossible task, yet it is one we must face. The health of our population, as well as of our land must be improved. If feels like we need to build a giant jigsaw that requires dozens of pieces to fit together and we don’t even know what some of those pieces look like yet. It might be that some pieces need adjacent pieces in place, or they can’t work.
Fortunately, there are plenty of people who believe in the same goals and who are at work demonstrating, at a local level, what is possible and what can be achieved. FeedingUK aims to highlight as much of this work as possible, to put people together who have experiences of what already works, have great ideas to share and to engage locally with new ideas.
We hope very much you will join us, engaging with us to tell us what is working in your community. We want you to share knowledge, and to praise the efforts of others.