On the 8 November IKnowFood, in collaboration with the York Environmental Sustainability Institute (YESI), held a York Citizen Food Assembly. This was funded by the Economic Social Research Council (ESRC), as part of the Festival of Social Science.
The York Citizen Food Assembly was designed to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities facing the food system in York, and to collect people’s views on the future of the York, Yorkshire and UK food system.
A policy brief from the event has been produced for DEFRA and the National Food Strategy team.
The brief highlights the frustration felt with regard to the rise of food poverty in the city of York along with the lack of separate food waste collection.
Those involved in the event were genuinely enthusiastic and appreciative of having the opportunity to express their views, and were encouraged by the presence of individuals in positions of ‘institutional authority’ (e.g. the University of York Vice Chancellor, members of local council) which they felt lent credibility. There was also enthusiasm for agency, with participants wanting to participate in the change, and a strong call that outcomes from the meeting should include the establishment of a solid platform for information exchange and ‘practical action’ on the issues highlighted.
Overall, it is clear that many things in the city are working effectively and there are numerous ‘good news stories’, but there are also many challenges related to food which remain to be addressed to increase the sustainability and resilience of the local food system, and the benefits which citizens of York derive from it.
As an affluent city, York represents a community which is well placed to respond and could therefore demonstrate leadership on the issues identified; but it is also important to note that problems in the food system are likely to be even more acute in other lower-income regions of the UK, and that there is a pressing need to make sure that initiatives – and any eventually successes – achieved in York over the coming years can be replicated across the UK.