Talking over a meal

Aberystwyth University Food Event

Aberystwyth University Food Event

The Food Group was involved in a series of food events in 2013, funded by OCW’s Better Organic Business Links project and run with local partners. All of them involved getting a group of people together to discuss some aspect of food, and providing them with a meal. The purposes of the events differed, but each aimed to get people thinking about food, or to get people to find new ways of working together, or both. The Food Group will be evaluating the events to see how effective they really were, and come up with some suggestions.

The first was a miniconference organized in April with the Cardiff Food Council as part of its journey towards becoming a Sustainable Food City. The purpose was to bring together key players in Cardiff’s food system (food producers, commercial companies, researchers, health practitioners and activists) to work on an action plan for the city. We used a World Café format to take delegates through the five areas of their Food Charter, ending with a locally sourced organic meal. See Cardiff miniconference 5 April 2013.

Next, in May, was a meal at the University of South Wales, Newport, where staff organized a farmers market and then a locally sourced meal to which staff, students and members of the local community were invited. Food discussions were held over the meal – one question per course – and the aim was to get people talking about food and encourage support for various food initiatives on the campus.

In June, staff at Bangor University organized a half-day miniconference to support work on the Gwynedd Food Charter. Delegates represented local farms, the health service, catering and community development, and a member of the Cardiff Food Council gave a presentation by Skype. Discussions were held on local sustainability, access to food, heritage, healthy eating and community development, generating ideas for submission to the Local Services Board. This was followed by a locally sourced lunch.

In August a food event at Aberystwyth University drew in 70 guests, mainly staff and students together with food suppliers, local sixth-formers and others, for a lunch to promote the catering service which was recently awarded the Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark. Academic staff shared perspectives on food in science, geography, politics and literature, and students introduced the Food Coop and a gardening project. The event is documented here.

Finally in November, Deri View Primary School in Abergavenny held a community meal for parents and children one evening after school. The school cooks did a roast dinner with local food, and Abergavenny Transition Group produced a light-hearted quiz on food sustainability for each table to discuss.

What did these events achieve? All were enjoyable and educational, but can they help bring lasting change? We will be evaluating them and getting some pointers for the future.

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