Discover what happened at our Sustainable Food Futures Event
In a week of celebrations around International Women’s Day we were delighted to shine a spotlight on leading female voices in food sustainability and the future of food. Our outstanding panel shared their journeys into sustainability and their hopes for how we could work towards a brighter future for not only the food industry, but for our health, young people’s education and our planet. Discover some of the big issues these bright lights covered.
Once again we were delighted to host this event at Cookery School at Little Portland Street (London’s most sustainable cookery school). In June 2019 they were our hosts for a popular event on Sustainable Gastronomy Day and we wanted to build on the appetite and lively discussions this event led to. Our guests were treated to organic Prosecco on arrival and they got a chance to mingle and chat before the evening began.
The evening began with some demonstrations by Ros Rathouse founder of Cookery School who had stopped using plastic in the school way before it became trendy to talk about going plastic free. A big campaigner for going back to basics, turning back the clock and showing what we could learn from the past, Ros shared her story of sustainability and how a simpler past meant we were naturally more sustainable than we are now.
Her demo of “bottom of the fridge” soup, served with pistou made from parsley stalks and a herbed croutons using stale bread showed how easy it was to liven up ingredients which are often thrown away. She followed this with a demo of a bread and butter pudding using leftover bread, brioche and stollen which had been frozen. This comforting pudding was served with banana ice cream and pear ice cream also created from frozen fruit in minutes when it was whizzed in a food processor.
Of the 10.2 million tonnes of food thrown away in the UK, 7.1 million comes from households as opposed to businesses, including supermarkets, restaurants and hotels. Worrying 5m tonnes of wasted household food is perfectly edible. These simple recipes are great ways for home cooks to help reduce everyday food waste.
Our audience then heard the fascinating journeys into sustainability and the future of food from our panel. Starting with Stephanie Wood founder of School Food Matters we learnt how her personal campaign to improve food in her own children’s school, led to a national mission.
When Stephanie started working in this area there was no connection between sustainability, schools, local authorities and parents. Schools were ordering in frozen ready meals from London for the previous 20 years. Since 2010 School Food Matters have helped to deliver a gold menu in schools at a lower cost but and with much more nutrition than delivering ready meals. Her work is not easy – dealing with rather static procurement departments and long held contracts – but over time and with determination she was able to move the needle in this area.
Next up was Catherine Flood Curator at the V&A Museum who curated their hugely popular Food Bigger Than the Plate exhibition. With over three years research Catherine worked with May Rosenthal Sloan to curate a powerful exhibition to help us re-evaluate our connection with food. She discussed how the aim was to take food beyond a commodity and think of it as a key part of our sustainable futures. Whether this was from presenting displays mushrooms grown from used coffee grounds from the V&A’s restaurant, to showing how cheese could be made from human bacteria, to displays of edible water bottles which massively reduced plastic at last year’s London Marathon, Catherine shared the challenges of getting museum buy-in and also making a thought provoking show that would re-frame how we looked at food and its provenance, food waste, and our own human waste too.
Corinna Hawkes Director of the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London, has a incredible background and sits on range of national and global think tanks relating to our diets. However, what drew her to studying food and one of the things that keeps her going in this area was the fact that her late mother had tried to improve Corinna’s schools meals. “The fact she failed to get her message through during my childhood made me determined to carry forward her vision for improving the way we eat”, Corinna said.
She firmly believes that public policy is key to fixing the food system and should creative incentives across the the economy. But she also believes that work like Catherine’s and the other women on our panel is important so we can understand the reasons why people eat the food they do, particularly from an equity perspective.
Edwina Hughes Head of Engagement for the Cool Food Pledge at the World Resources Institute, also echoed that we all have in reducing climate change and how food is an important part of this. As Head of Engagement she is helping to sign up institutions, restaurants, cities and companies that serve food to consider climate change on a daily basis. The Cool Food Pledge helps dining facilities offer consumers tasty options while slashing food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2030. She explained how through behaviour change, promotion and public engagement the World Resources Institute is helping reduce climate change.
Food production accounts for nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, and helping people increase the share of plant-based foods in their diet is a critical step in reducing agriculture’s pressure on the climate.
Finally on our panel we heard from Juliet Davenport, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Good Energy which is a 100% renewable energy company with a mission to power a greener, cleaner future together. As with the other women on the panel , Juliet aimed to make us re-think and challenge perceptions. She spoke of how we often take light and power for granted, and both are so important in the food chain. Again we went back to the theme of taking ownership for and developing a connection with a basic product. When thinking about renewable energy and food in this way it changes how we behave and makes us value our relationship with both.
An incredibly lively Q&A took place afterwards and we covered huge topics that went beyond sustainability such as food insecurity, the importance of education both amongst children and adults, equitable systems within food, re-framing healthy food as something of value, obesity, advertising of “junk food”, packaging, food tax and much more. It was clear that our thoughtful and curious audience were clearly inspired by our strong female panel. We look forward to putting on more events and discussions like this, to continue the conversations and hopefully look at what we can all do to help.
At the end of the evening we gave away goodie bags with “surplus” vegetables from Waste Knot, sustainable samples of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern pastes and tapanades from Belazu Ingredients Company, beer from Small Beer Brew Co London’s first B Corp beer company and plantable sprout pencils from our kind drinks sponsor Prosecco DOC.
Thanks to all of the above for being so generous, to our truly inspiring panel and to Rosalind and her staff at Cookery School for being wonderful hosts.
You may also like to read our Interview with Stephanie Wood on School Food Matters and our recap at our Politics of Food event and debate at City Hall.
Watch this space for recaps of our International Women’s Day events and look out for more events in 2020 by following all of our social media channels. We are on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn and you can also sign up for our email newsletter. Plus Women in the Food Industry members receive discounted tickets to all of our events.