By Deidre Woods, Community Food Growers Network, Food and Farming Awards Cook of the Year/Food Sovereignty Movement.

Think tanks, policy makers and experts from a variety of fields have been pondering the question about what constitutes a sustainable diet for decades. As our food system spirals out of control with extremes of food and water waste, CO2 gas from factory farming of meat, lifestyle diseases born out of western desires for seasonal and tropical foods available year round, highly processed foods, the latest food fads and trends, superfoods, cheap food....

Our current system is built on the oppression of others, both in less and more developed countries that leaves farmers, food producers, workers, and communities impoverished,hungry, starving, and undernourished. Compounded further by the impacts of climate change, conflicts, migration, little or no land rights. A system where there is a vast gender gap even though women are the backbone of families and communities, making the decisions about food choices, or whom themselves are food providers. Women are at the forefront of social challenges and are ideally situated to facilitate the greatest changes.

Despite the relative wealth of the UK, as the cracks widen we are seeing the negative impacts on people and planet closer to home. Rising food prices, shortages, social inequities with more food banks and independent food aid providers, increasing malnutrition and obesity.

How do we ensure that in determining diets that are nutritionally sound, support good health and do not cost the earth are accessible to everyone? How do we ensure that there is cultural and biological diversity? How do we preserve and pass on skills? How do we support members of our communities who are food insecure? How do we change things?

These questions and more are considered and acted upon each day in communities throughout the UK. Alongside the top down responses from local, city region and national governments have emerged a movement of people, food citizens, actively engaged in changing the food system to one that is fairer and inclusive.

Human created barriers melt away as each day a multiverse of people go about creating a vision for a greener, healthier London through community gardens, food growing projects, community led food aid,community cafes and kitchens. They are learning and sharing valuable global knowledge and skills, sharing meals, generating and redistributing income in a sharing economy. Successfully combatting social isolation, improving health and wellbeing, having conversations about food, health, society, politics, many which result in bold actions and innovations.

One example is the peer to peer network, Community Food Growers Network whose individual members range in size, political beliefs, growing philosophies and structures have come together on the basis of food sovereignty principles. Together and as part of their communities they are problem solving on the ground and putting into practice alternatives to a damaging food system. Lobbying local authorities and the GLA with policy proposals and for access to land, that will enable more communities to do the same, in addition to actions, support and training

Sustainable sustenance is much more than food. It is holistic, connecting seemingly separated issues and their solutions together. It values the agency of ordinary people to know what is right for their families, communities, and the environment which they are strongly connected to. It is built on the diversity of people, cultures, knowledge and skills. Instead of fear driven approaches to lack, hunger and change there are many solutions and not just one. People centred and led sustainable sustenance has at its core, hope, connection, joy, celebration and love. 

Deidre Woods, Community Food Growers Network, Food and Farming Awards Cook of the Year/Food Sovereignty Movement was on our panel of speakers at the #WENForum 22/6