I was excited to be attending my first Fife Diet event: Food Revolt on 12 November 2011. Here’s some notes and thoughts about the day, and presentations from the day are available here. Update: some photos from the day are here.
From the start I was impressed that they provided a creche – it’s a crucial part of people care and allows people with young families the ability to attend. Which is a roundabout way of saying me & the younger daughter went and were made very welcome. I noticed that many of the children at the creche were those of presenters or stall-holders, but that didn’t stop them making the creche more generally available.
When signing in, we were offered the opportunity to join the Fife Diet, although as Edinburghers we had to settle for being a Friend of the Fife Diet. It was lovely to receive a recipe book and postcard from the Fife Diet on the Friday after the event, even with the reduced level of membership. Rounded off the event really well.
Mike Small’s keynote
Mike Small’s keynote covered 6 broad themes, including section on Transition Walmart in response to Asda’s proclamation on local food.
For me, the most important part of this was hearing that Tesco is starting to develop a local food microsite to add to their web presence. This is a divisive move and I’ll tell you why. Large chains already cater for the affluent. Those who can take advantage of 3 for 2 offers, or who pitch up to the store in a car and who can purchase and take home the large multipacks, are advantaged over those who just want to buy a small amount. The price per unit on each item (in the name of transparency) shows how much cheaper it is per unit for a larger package. But for those who want a small amount or can only afford a small packet, it’s a visible reminder of the inequality. The digital divide will mean that putting local food online will further entrench the position of the affluent: they’ll have preferential access to the large chains’ local food offering.
Secondly: accessibility. Already the accessibility of large store’s websites is variable. Prioritising the online purchasing of local food risks disadvantaging those who cannot access the website, even if motivated to do so. And one of the advanatages of local food (as community food) is that everyone can play a valid part in the production, even people with impairments. I know of community gardening groups of disabled people that are able to participate in community horticulture projects, to mutual benefit. To set local food apart from the localised and community production of food reduces local food to a cash transaction. I think this is another reason why the large chains are structurally incapable of providing local food and all its benefits.
Following Mike’s keynote we heard from Daniel Lopez Garcia, who gave a historical view of Spain’s local food scene, and the new indignados movement of the underemployed that’s linking up with the established organisations. Seems to me that the building of food co-ops is a crucial part of building a local food movement. Also:
When there is no income, any kind of production is useful.
He also mentioned Universidad Rural Paulo Freire.
Lunch was a communal affair put on by the Fife Diet team. Simple, tasty food served efficiently. I mostly spent it wrangling the girl, checking out the stalls round the edge of the mains hall, then took kiddo for a walk around Kinghorn where she fell asleep.
In the breakout sessions, we heard a new question from a film-maker/activist: “where are you of?” It’s a question that recognises a tie with the land, unlike “where are you from?” which emphasises the otherness of the unfamiliar person. It’s the place that makes you. There were harrowing tales from Indonesia where palm oil producers cagole, trick and intimidate communities to release land; and there were tales of resistance.
However, this session came to an abrupt end when I got a call from the creche that kiddo had woken up and was inconsolable. I found her in the creche and she just didn’t want me to leave again, so we called an end to the day and went home at sunset. Lovely blues and reds in the sky and the sound of the water audible from the train station. It’s a learning point for me: I should have taken the sleeping girl with me to the breakout session and kept her with me until she woke. There were a couple of other small children in the room (including one of the presenter’s) so I guess that would have been OK.
Perhaps she should have had some coffee.