The first, informal meeting of the Shandon Food Initiative took place last night, and 61 people turned out to the Phoenix Centre on a cold night.
After a preamble we split into groups of half a dozen, with each group recieving 2 questions to brainstorm on and feedback to the meeting as a whole. There was some overlap between the questions, and it was good to hear that a lot of the same ideas came up from different groups to different situations; it builds links and resilience.
One idea I particularly like is a community food event. Part harvest festival, part community building, like urban farming in Middlesbrough and the food event for 1,500 in the town square. A similar idea was floated from two other groups and after the event one member came up and said he had previously organised a secular harvest festival. Since I’ve got reservations about standing for the committee, I might work towards putting something like this on.
The Slow food Edinburgh website reminds me that I would need to get food hygiene training.
There was some contention about the constitution, with most people arguing about length of tenure of committee members, how to ensure the membership stays active, how to define a quorum etc. Only I argued against the principle of the constitution. I believe that a voluntary association makes the committee members financially liable for any money raised so a company limited by guarantee is a better vehicle for such a group. There were good counter-arguments that one needs responsible people on the committee (but having money or able to accept that risk is a narrow definition of responsibity); that company directors are still liable for criminality (but there’s a lot of behaviour that would make someone financially liable but not criminally so); and that the constitution can be changed. However I felt it necessary to show my dissent. The vote was overwhelmingly carried with 2 against.
We heard in the preamble that there is no easy definition of local food. If this is an initiative to promote local food, it needs to be plural from the outset and be able to accept contradictions. At this meeting I felt safe being in such a small minority, and I hope that minority views will continue to be heard.