Forked! catches up with Kath Dalmeny from the campaigning organisation Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming
Forked: What do you think are the biggest food challenges facing us currently, both in the UK and globally?
Kath Dalmeny: A Food system that is over reliant on profligate use of resources. Ways to tackle that are: Massively reducing food waste in the supply chain from industry to consumers and adopting farming systems that use much less resources inherently. For example organic food and farming systems that use less water and are much more careful about how they treat the soil and with energy use.
Another major issue is antibiotic resistance, with a major contribution coming from the profligate use of antibiotics in intensive factory farming. Which is threatening the ability of us to be able to use antibiotics for our own simple diseases and conditions in the future. There is a threat that within the next couple of decades we might lose antibiotics as an effective way of treating infections. Which is really quite frightening.
And then of course there’s climate change. Food and Farming contribute about between a third and a fifth of climate change emissions and that is something that we’ve really got to sort out because as the climate changes then also our food and farming systems get threatened by those changes.
Forked: Do you think there is enough being done about this?
KD: Not at all!
People are beginning to wake up to it, whether that is government, industry or the public in general, but not enough is being done at the moment. There is lots of talk, there are lots of voluntary guidelines coming out there are lots of cases of best practice in all of the solutions, but the idea of that getting into the mainstream? I don’t see that happening as of yet.
Forked: So what or who have you recently found inspiring in the food world?
KD: I am inspired by a new alliance of organizations including Compassion in World Farming, Sustain and the Soil Association, getting together to try and tackle the use of antibiotics in the food and farming system. [Antibiotics] is an issue of very strong human concern and the passion with which people are coming to that subject to try and find solutions is really exciting.
In the food waste world I’m very inspired by feeding the 5000 which is an organization that has been doing a lot of awareness raising about scandalous waste of food, led by a gentleman called Tristram Stuart, but there is a great team there that is doing some fantastic work, just passionately trying to tackle the terrible waste of food.
I’m also inspired by a lot of people in the NGO and campaigning world that are doing all sorts of amazing things like drafting legislation, taking messages to parliament, talking with the professions that can act to make changes happen. Working with organizations like, local health organizations, with GP’s, with politicians, MP’s, asking what can we do that would be different? And what would reduce the impact of the food and farming system on our health and the environment?
There is another area that we are starting to do some work on ourselves too which is around mental health. Food and activity are very linked with people’s prospects of having good mental wellbeing. There are some really inspiring people working on doing things like helping people who have various mental health issues, whether its things like post traumatic stress disorder, or depression, or long term conditions where there is very little hope of getting out of them just with drugs. Helping out with making food growing available, or working with people in gardens, or helping them to eat a healthier diet, really makes a massive difference to their lives. So I wouldn’t want to forget those personal stories in the midst of dealing with international challenges like climate change.
[For more info on work in this area go to The Mental Health Foundation, The Institute for Food, Brain and Behaviour (IFBB), Food and Behaviour Research, and Food Matters. Also check out the benefits of real bread making in this report]
Forked: Could you give me three words to sum up the state of the current food system?
KD: Full of potential, Un-resilient, Out of touch [with environmental and social issues]
For more information see Sustain