When the idea of a Food Manifesto for Wales was suggested by Jane Davidson, former Welsh environment minister, it posed a challenge. How do you find common ground amongst such a huge variety of organisations involved with food – supermarket staff, school catering services, surplus food distribution projects, farming unions, environmental groups, community gardens, dieticians and many more?
The answer came through an action research project called Food Values, a collaboration between food educators and researchers, led by Aberystwyth University and the Public Interest Research Centre. Working around Wales, we brought together various groups of people over a shared meal. From pensioners and school children in Gwynedd, to church members and refugees in Cardiff, some very simple messages came through. There was concern about keeping food skills alive, building local culture and being sustainable. Most strongly we heard, “We want everyone in Wales to have good food.”
It was clear that for most people, food was more than a commodity – even for supermarket managers, serving the local community was an important part of what they did. Could it be that a simple human concern for the wellbeing of our communities is in fact something we all share, and a sufficient basis for a Manifesto? It may be an act of faith, but it has political backing from the Well-being of Future Generations Act. This calls for Welsh public bodies to take a long view and to work in new ways with business and the community.
It can be difficult to stay focused on the core values of the Manifesto. It’s obvious how, in a business context, the language of money, jobs and efficiency dominates and makes it harder to talk about health and happiness. But CSOs often compete with each other for funding and membership, and that can get in the way of good human connection too.
The Manifesto is a big idea, but a small project run by volunteers. We curate a website which anyone can write for, we run workshops at events, and we take part in research and engagement projects to bring the Manifesto thinking to life.
What we love about it:
The role of citizens isn’t only to vote, but to shape the options that are available to them in the first place. This shows how this power can tapped into to inform policy.
More info: foodmanifesto.wales