On Wednesday 23rd October, Manchester Metropolitan University and Oldham Council co-hosted a one-day food conference at the People’s History Museum in Central Manchester (UK). 79 people attended the event, including delegates from the Greater Manchester area and other regions within the UK, and international partners and stakeholders from Bulgaria, Romania, Italy and the Netherlands.
The day began with a welcome and introduction from Adrian Morley (Research Fellow in Sustainable Food Systems at Manchester Metropolitan University) and Jan-Nico Appelman (Deputy King’s Commissioner for the Province of Flevoland), followed by a presentation from Yota Nicolarea from the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact Secretariat. Yota’s presentation was particularly timely for delegates based in Greater Manchester, as the city-region officially became a signatory to the Pact in October 2019.
Professor Kevin Morgan gave a thought-provoking presentation on urban food planning and policy, giving specific examples of where cities are leading the way by drawing on the experiences of Bristol, Toronto, Seattle, New York and Stockholm. The presentation ended with Kevin highlighting the exemplary work being carried out in Oldham to maintain excellent standards for school meals and questioning how this best practice can be sustained, shared and adopted elsewhere in austere times.
Interactive workshops offered delegates the opportunity to engage in discussions around topics including action planning; scaling up food growing initiatives; supporting businesses; and building regional partnerships. Sessions were professionally facilitated and subject experts were asked to give five-minute contributions to set the scene for each workshop. The final workshop of the day was led by Charlotte Hill from the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), who gathered feedback from the audience to inform the consultation on the forthcoming National Food Strategy.
The final presentation of the day was given by Carolyn Steel, author of ‘Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives’ and ‘Sitopia: How Food Can Save the World’, and a leading thinker on food in cities. Carolyn illustrated a compelling historical narrative of the complex relationships between food, cities and people, putting forward the case for cities to be viewed through the lens of food, to help us build, inhabit and thrive in our own ‘Sitopia’ (Food Place).
The Greater Manchester team will now build on feedback from the conference workshops to develop their Regional Action Plan and are looking forward to the second phase of the Food Chains 4EU project, where plans will be turned into action!