Archives for category: Food

With the government’s own economic impact assessments for the West Midlands making grim reading – the worst case scenarios reminiscent of the early 1980s recessions that devastated the social and economic fabric of the region – it is vital that policy makers, institutions and individuals prepare for what is likely to be a disruptive period for the UK economy.

There is a high concentration of leave voters in the de-industrialised areas of the West Midlands. Economically and politically disempowered, these areas have performed poorly, in orthodox economic development terms, since the 1980s. They have experienced comparatively low levels of private sector and government investment and entrenched social issues linked to poverty. Put simply, the West Midlands hasn’t fared well out of the last 40 years of UK economic policy.

It seems that for the West Midlands, Brexit could be a perfect storm, with:

 . a lack of political power to shape national policy to meet its specific needs,
• job losses after opening its markets to intense global competition, leading to.
• lower state investment likely to affect the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

So the most important questions are “what next?” and “Are the changes being planned for us, not by us, really in our interest?”

It seems that two options exist….

More of the same?

Much of the hype around Brexit from government and its main advocates has been around the notion of a ‘Global Britain’, the narrative about this uses snappy messaging like ‘freedom’ ‘something new’ and ‘we will all benefit’. In reality ‘Global Britain’ is simply a rebranding and upscaling of the of current economic model we have followed for 40 years – the one the West Midlands hasn’t done particularly well out of.

Take food as an example of what this ‘Global Britain’ might mean. Early reports about potential ‘free trade’ deals have focused on cheaper food imports from places such as America, New Zealand and Australia. The result of this is that smaller UK farmers and food producers won’t be able to compete and could go bust, coupled with the enormous environmental costs of shipping food and goods long distances. So it appears behind the snappy title, Global Britain will be bad for local producers, but a bonanza for massive corporations, with capital and jobs leaving Britain in return for environmentally unsustainable food products and in some cases lower quality food.

In this scenario it seems more apparent by the day, that a real danger of Brexit will be to open Britain up to a free trade ‘free for all’ that could result in lower food, safety and environmental protections.

Something different?

Let’s be radical! If any situation called for creative thinking and new solutions, Brexit is it. Another Brexit mantra is ‘Taking back Control’ an amorphous phrase that in practice will most likely entail a further concentration of power in one place, Westminster.

Even with the devolution deal secured by the West Midlands, economic policy is generally created for the benefit of one part of the UK economy – London and the Southeast – and if this trend continues it will probably lead to further divergence between London and the rest of the UK, without the power to set policy that works locally.

So how about a radical redistribution of economic and political power, not only devolved to regional but right down to the communities we all live in?

Getting Local; Community Economic Development 

Imagine a new style of economy that values people and creates a resilient and sustainable West Midlands. An economic model where local people lead and participate as owners, investors, purchasers and wealth creators. Far-fetched? Not really. Community Economic Development (CED) exists in practice in communities across the world, from hyper local food networks, energy co-operatives, complementary currencies and larger private, trade union & public-sector partnerships that grow localised economic activity for the benefit of communities.

Evidence proves this approach is a better way to grow jobs, harnessing the assets of local communities, rather than relying on distant private and public-sector owners with little understanding of the local areas. LWM’s research has found that higher levels of small and micro businesses and local ownership lead to higher levels of economic success, job creation, social inclusion, civic engagement, wellbeing and local distinctiveness.

So maybe the right question should be ‘How do we make an economy that works for everyone, in which we all have a meaningful stake?’

Why?

We could spend another 40 years following the current economic model, sending profits into the offshore accounts of multinationals, damaging our environment and generally carrying on regardless, or we could spend the next 40 years working together to ensure the West Midlands is at the forefront of a new social and economic revolution.

Anything else is simply unsustainable . . .

Visit Localising Prosperity, a LWM programme funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, to read about activity based on making the most of local enterprise, existing business supply chains, networks, community assets and human potential.

David Viney is Administration & Communications Officer for LWM. His professional interests include asset-based community development, regional economic disparity and how discrimination impacts on minority health outcomes.

 

 

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The Heritage Lottery Fund Schedule of Decisions has recorded a grant given to a two year project which will work with local communities to establish heritage fruit and nut tree sites in Stirchley, Birmingham.  The project is a partnership between Food Forest brum and Lets Grow Together.

It will engage the local community with the history of traditional fruit and nut trees and encourage involvement in the creation and management of urban orchards, nut groves and forest gardens.

Felipe Molina, one of five directors of Spring to Life which applied for this funding, has been involved in the development of Food Forest Brum and Mother Gardens projects.

He spoke about this project at Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum Meeting on 11th June, at Stirchley Community Church, Hazelwell Street (above).

 

 

 

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Note one of their forthcoming events: A Future for All

 Read more about the Priory Rooms here.

 

 

 

 

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Birmingham Friends of the Earth’s building, The Warehouse, enters the final stage of its refurbishment project.

The building is really starting to look like the plans developed for the Share offer. Jericho has continued to reshape the building internally. New windows and doors have been installed on the ground floor which let in a lot more light than the old shutters.

Middle Bay has been cleared and is now the seating area for the Warehouse Cafe. A new kitchen has been installed for the Warehouse Café which is up and running again.

A lift has been installed and was officially opened. It will allow volunteers not previously able to access the top floor of the building, to do so. The ribbon cutting ceremony:

The new Meeting Room spaces will soon be finished and will be open for bookings. Existing tenants – businesses and community groups – will thrive in the improved building which will also offer opportunities to new businesses and community groups.

Shaz Rahman writes:

“The building looks dramatically different. I was amazed when I saw the new shop front for The Warehouse for the first time. What was once a dreary entrance, which had no appealing features, is now an inviting shop front. The glass makes the space look really large. We are really proud of what has been achieved at Birmingham Friends of the Earth. An incredible amount of time and effort went into the Community Share Offer, and even more time and effort has gone into implementing the building project. Internally the building is unrecognisable from what it was a year ago and so we thank our investors for helping to make this idea become a reality”.

 

 

 

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MELA social enterprise’s new ‘We Are’ neighbourhood campaign will start with ‘We Are Balsall Heath’ Street Festival on Sunday April 22 bringing together the diverse communities of Balsall Heath.

On Sunday 22nd April, Moseley Road will be closed between 8am and 7pm for the “We Are Balsall Heath” Mela. There will be 8 artist performances and installations, a food hub representing dishes from all communities, street stalls, open doors to community buildings, heritage trails, games and much more for a family fun day out. Please join us! https://www.facebook.com/weareBHMELA/

The organisers will have stalls all along the route and the Friends of MRB will be in front of Moseley Road Baths. From the stall Friends of MRB will be arranging some short tours of the building, bearing in mind that Pool 2 will in use until 1:30pm. The Gala Pool will still be out of bounds, unfortunately, but we can show you other unseen areas of the Grade II* listed building. Don’t forget that Moseley Road Baths has now reopened for swimming and is being run by a charity set up by volunteers from the local community.

On Sunday 22nd April there will be two Be Active sessions in the morning, both for public swimming – 10:00-11:00am and then 11:15-12:15 – so remember to bring your swimming costume to the Mela!

 

 

 

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The late Hilary Powell, who lived in Shirley, would – like many others volunteering to help food banks – have reacted with great concern to the forecast in the Financial Times by Chris Tighe writing from Newcastle:

“Winter is coming, Britain’s welfare system is in upheaval, universal credit rollout puts extra pressure on Britain’s food banks and rising costs are hurting the poor”. 

Though increasingly disabled over the years by arthritis, with other serious health problems, Hilary did the lighter work on her allotment at Scribers Lane, with her husband John, and for some years – after making this point to organisers – ensured that some fresh food was added to the store of tinned and packaged goods by growing salads and vegetables and taking them to the food bank.

This year, the government’s rollout of its new benefits system has swelled the number of people seeking help because of the six-week delay before claimants receive payments. Some food banks may not be able to cope with the added strain on their resources, said Sam Stapley, operations manager at the Trussell Trust.

The Trussell Trust’s network, which covers two-thirds of distribution areas, saw a 6.64% average rise in referrals for emergency food in 2016/17, but a 16.85% increase in the universal credit rollout area.

  Newcastle West End food bank, the UK’s biggest, provides food for 1,000 people a week

Ten years ago, food banks were scarce. Many were started by volunteers concerned about people struggling financially. But they now form an essential part of Britain’s social safety net, with an estimated 2,000 distribution centres across the country. To use a food bank, a referral is needed, typically from the social service or housing support officers, but also from agencies such as local charities or Citizens Advice. Tens of thousands of volunteers nationally work more than 4m hours a year stocktaking, picking up and distributing food and fundraising, according to a recent study by the Trussell Trust, a national food bank network, and the Independent Food Aid Network.

The Trust is encouraging regional ‘plans of action’ so that food banks can better help each other plug gaps.

Streams of donations come from:

  • harvest festivals,
  • online appeals,
  • social events,
  • supermarket collection points,
  • a £3,000 crowdfunding appeal for a new Salford distribution centre,
  • Cardiff food bank’s recent auction of an ancient can of kidney beans raised £500.
  • Growing numbers of donations are coming from football matches.
  • Many businesses, in sectors from retail to financial services and energy, support food banks with goods or seconded staff.

Logistics, with many food banks based in ad hoc premises and receiving irregular stocks of food, is a major challenge. The Trussell Trust is meeting experts this month to discuss if its Coventry regional warehouse could become a national distribution base. Then the trust could accept big pallets of unwanted goods from corporate donors, split them into small consignments and distribute them.

 

 

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 Royal College of Surgeons’ dean points to ‘sweet habits’ as first teeth are removed

It has been reported that NHS data obtained by the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) shows there were 9,206 extractions within the age group in 2015-16 compared with 7,444 in 2006-07 – a 24% rise. The figures prompted calls for parents, the government and the food industry to take action to reverse the alarming trend.

Prof Nigel Hunt, dean of the RCS’s Faculty of Dental Surgery, said: “When you see the numbers tallied up like this it becomes abundantly clear that the sweet habits of our children are having a devastating effect on the state of their teeth.

Hundreds of children are having their first teeth extracted as hospital treatments hit their highest level in six years in Birmingham.

There were 1,464 hospital admissions for teeth extractions for children from the Birmingham CrossCity CCG in 2015/16, the highest number since at least 2010/11, and up from 795 in 2014/15. In Sandwell and West Birmingham, the number of hospital admissions for teeth extractions has also hit a six year high, at 141 in 2015/16, up from 33 in 2014/15.#

The numbers have increased sevenfold since 2010/11

In 2010/11 there were 208 hospital admissions for tooth extraction. Included in the admissions were 297 for children aged between one and four to have multiple teeth extracted, the highest number since at least 2010/11, as well as 730 admissions for children aged five to nine, the highest number since at least 2010/11.

Ingesting fluoride at best ‘controversial’: at worst, causing some damage to health

A report by Birmingham Professor of Epidemiology, K.K. Cheng and Dr Trevor Sheldon published in the BMJ deemed the practice ‘controversial’.

More recently, corresponding author Professor Stephen Peckham, University of Kent commented on research he and two co-authors had undertaken and published in the BMJ: “We found that practices located in the West Midlands (a wholly fluoridated area) are nearly twice as likely to report high hypothyroidism prevalence in comparison to Greater Manchester (non-fluoridated area).

Last year Ian Wylie reported that around one million people in Birmingham are supplied with artificially fluoridated water. But its average number of extracted or filled teeth is 1.17, higher than the national average. Across the West Midlands, where water has been fluoridated since 1964, there has been a 300% rise in children under the age of 10 being admitted to hospital for multiple Mars, Cadbury, Kellogg’s and Nestlé teeth extractions in the last five years.

Post-script: The Times reports that a representative of leading brands including Mars, Cadbury, Kellogg’s and Nestlé (aka ‘food giants’) told their journalist that they would reduce sugar content in food and drink but not to the government’s timescale.

 

 

 

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The sketchy reports on the dispute about the refuse collection changes on the BBC and Birmingham Mail websites have been supplemented by welcome information from Jacqui Kennedy, Corporate Director for Place.

She explained that this action is being taken because the council is facing significant financial challenges following six years of cuts to local government funding.

Taking refuse collection ‘in-house’ – dispensing with 200 expensive agency staff

Jacqui continued: “It is extremely important that we move away from relying on expensive agency staffAt the moment 200 out of 595 employees in refuse collection are hired from agencies. We intend to replace agency staff with up to 246 full-time staff employed directly by the council. All of these new permanent employees will enjoy the associated benefits that come with working for the council such as pension, holiday entitlement and sick pay”. The Mail adds that overtime will also go and the number of binmen will be increased by 152.

Agreement with the unions is sought as waste collection crews will be required to shift from a four day week of just over nine hours per day to a five day week of just over seven hours per day. Joint development of the detailed plans needed to make these proposals work is important.

Jacqui points out that over 40% of material in our bins is food waste. Last year, UK households wasted around 20% of all the food they buy – but there has been a 17% reduction since 2007, according to Food Waste Facts.

Visitors to this site come from many British regions and other countries – last week’s stats (right). A Gloucestershire reader recommends their food waste collection which began in 2016. Though some Birmingham gardeners already compost such material, other residents could make good use of a similar facility.

A Stroud newspaper recorded in 2016 that two weeks into the scheme 232 tonnes of food waste from 52,000 residents had already been collected – more than the weight of a blue whale.

Even the most careful householders have eggshells and orange peel to place in the small kitchen food waste bin provided – and the less careful dispose of ‘leftovers’ and unused, decaying food. These are emptied into a larger bin (right) kept outside. The bins are collected once a week and taken to an aerobic digester. In a few weeks it is turned into gas used in the grid and the residue is put on the fields as fertiliser.

“A great example of the renewable circular economy”, according to Green councillor Simon Pickering.

 

 

 

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 In February Pat Thomas wrote an articleLet’s get UK chefs talking about GMOs’.

San Carlo is ahead of the game. 

Outside its restaurant in Temple Street, Birmingham San Carlo’s menu sheets open with the declaration (photographed in driving rain): “We are advised by all our suppliers that all their products are GM free”

 San Carlo is one of the restaurants founded by Carlo di Stefano which have won more than thirty regional national awards – to read more go to: https://sancarlo.co.uk/our-story/. There are sixteen in Britain and a growing number overseas. Not only is it ‘GM wise’ but – as visitors from Mumbai last Wednesday all agreed – lunch there was delicious.

This year ‘Beyond GM’ is introducing ‘GMO conversation’ to chefs, caterers, restaurateurs, hoteliers and others in the British food service industry.

Pat Thomas (below left) noted in March that in the US, chefs like Alice Waters and Tom Colicchio are leading the public discussion on GMOs. But in the UK our chefs, caterers, hoteliers and restaurateurs are largely silent – and possibly not well-informed. She adds that concern in Europe is already growing. In France, an open letter about GMOs and the corporate takeover of the food has been signed (so far) by 330 chefs, hoteliers, restaurateurs and others in the food industry. The letter was launched on gastronomy news website Atabula and initiated by its founder and editor, Franck Pinay-Rabaroust, a former editor of the Michelin Guide.

A survey (now closed) was organized which focussed on preferences and informed choice when eating out and its early results will be brought to a roundtable on provenance hosted by Chef Cyrus Todiwala. It will also inform a report being produced on GMOs in the restaurant and catering food chain and this, in turn, will form the basis of talks planned for later in the year.

 

 

 

 

Values for the Future seminar

Cost for the whole day is £10 – paid at the door or booked through the PCF website: www.planetcentred.org.

See also: https://www.facebook.com/events/1240820045972394/  

Colin Hines is a former co-ordinator of Greenpeace International’s Economics Unit, co-founder of Localisation West Midlands, and co-ordinator of the Green New Deal Group (dedicated website temporarily unavailable).

He has campaigned on population, food security, nuclear proliferation and the adverse environmental and social effects of international trade.

He will speak about his conviction that the only way to solve these problems is by replacing globalisation’s open borders with ‘Progressive Protectionism’ (left, recently published).

Malcolm Currie, a former geography lecturer and community activist has long had an interest in environmental issues.

This recently led to a partnership with the founder of the Midlands Environmental Business Club which has focused on a project aiming to demonstrate the feasibility of neighbourhood based sustainability: the Uplands-Hilltop project (above). Read more about this from the joint project leader on the right-hand bar of this site. Malcolm says: “The problem is how to attempt to create a sustainable world without wrecking the economy that provides most people with jobs and incomes . . .

The case has to be made that in the longer term regional diversity and shorter supply chains make for greater efficiencies (and local jobs). Global production and distribution is actually highly inefficient, apart from producing a monochrome world and damaging the biosphere.”  A different way of organising trade and industry has to make sense to those who control, or are engaged in, business.

Christine Parkinson, a biologist (medical research), has more recently been involved in regeneration projects in Birmingham’s inner city suburbs. 

She has just finished writing “Three Generations Left? Human Activity and the Destruction of the Planet”, which outlines how so-called progress has combined with a host of other factors, including free trade, a market economy, population increase and the development of a super-rich minority owning most of the wealth of the planet, to bring about global warming and climate change which could lead to a loss of many species and mass human extinction before the end of this century.

The book offers clear and constructive proposals for measures which will avert such a disaster.

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Seating limited: prebooking is recommended.

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