Feeding Cities: Food Innovation in the UK – Next City

Feeding Cities: Food Innovation in the UK

Part of the “Blue Finger,” a highly fertile strip of land in the United Kingdom. Credit: Blue Finger Alliance

As the 2013 Feeding Cities conference unfolds this week in Philadelphia, Next City, a media partner for the event, will feature regular updates from bloggers covering its talks and workshops. Click here to see a rundown of our coverage.

Much of the discussion at the Feeding Cities conference has centered on the challenges of feeding growing populations in the developing world and the inefficiencies in North America’s food systems. I was therefore pleased to hear Kevin Morgan, a professor of governance and development at Cardiff University’s School of Planning and Geography, discuss food innovation in the UK during the conference’s final breakout session.

Maybe it was just his wonderful Welsh accent, but Morgan’s time on the podium seemed notably different to other speakers at the event, discussing pollution (“the food chain accounts for 31 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU”), Europe’s recent horse meat scandal (“the only time in history that tampering has actually improved the nutritional value of food”) and, crucially, the fun of food (“Food is about joy and pleasure. We should never forget that”).

I was particularly interested to hear about the the impact of the Food for Life partnership in London. This scheme works with 3,800 schools in England, collaborating with four partner organizations (Soil Association, Health Education Trust, Garden Organic and The Focus on Food Campaign) to ensure school meals are healthy and students are food educated. Crucially, regions across the UK are graded based on their engagement with the scheme, encouraging competition among districts to commit to a healthy food culture in schools.

Morgan also spoke about food culture in Bristol, the UK’s eighth most populated city. He praised the efforts of the Blue Finger Alliance, an informal partnership between individuals and organizations that seeks to protect a strip of highly fertile agricultural land to Bristol’s north known as the “Blue Finger.” Despite having the “top 3 percent of land in the country for growing food,” farming the Blue Finger is not as profitable as developing it. To protect it, the alliance envisions “a patchwork of commercial agriculture and horticulture, community projects, allotments and more” on the strip, demonstrating that Bristol is a truly green city.

“We can no longer think about defending spaces through bans,” Morgan said. “We need positive and compelling visions for the use of space.” Though with projects like these underway in the UK, Morgan predicted that as we improve food systems, a new challenge will emerge.

“How can we sustain sustainability?” he asked the audience. No one had an answer, but that’s certainly a good kind of problem to have.

Tags: public schoolsfood desertslondonurban farmingcommunity gardens