Mike Small reflects on the Fife Diet (published here)…
‘Why don’t we eat more food from near where we live?’
This was the simple question that began the Fife Diet – a year long local food experiment which has since morphed into an exploration of what sustainable food looks like, and a hundred more questions. Over an eight year period it has developed from a simple idea framed around ‘local eating’ to a complex holistic one about sustainable food, environmental justice, globalisation and culture.
We set out to build a sustainable food movement that popularised eating healthy, local produce in Fife. We started from the understanding that there is something fundamentally wrong with the food system but also from the thought that we can, if act collectively, do something about it.
We are delighted beyond our expectations at the support it has received and the impact it has had. We believe the projects success was based on its authenticity – i.e. ordinary people trying to do this for the first time, but also based on a fundamental truth, that is that we as a society will have to actually change our own behaviour, institutions and experiences to meet the challenges of climate change and that no magic bullet, techno-fix or legal sleight of hand will wish-away the reality we are all part of.
The last eight years has made us realise that food has become central to the precarious economy, it has become a form of social control, and, while it remains a means for great change and a source for love, community and solidarity, it has also been captured and turned against us.
The ‘restorative practice’ of a better food system will only be victorious if we want it enough. But we think it’s there right now on the table in front of us.
Real progress won’t be made until we end hunger in Scotland and the disgrace that are food banks. It won’t be made until we regain control over our retail experience, and confront the profiteers that benefit from products that fuel our children’s obesity. It won’t be made until we create opportunities for the ‘right to grow’ and create an expectation of quality healthy food in our public institutions. Some of these arguments are put forward in ourFood Manifesto.
There’s a whole lot more to be done if we want to be taken seriously as a ‘Good Food Nation’. We think that debate is just starting, not ending.
Here’s some of what we consider to be our key achievements on that journey:
CELEBRATING OUR OWN FOOD CULTURE It’s worth remembering that when we started we were met by a mixture of incredulity and poorly-disguised scepticism. People really didn’t think that you could eat food from Fife, and survive at all. It was just unthinkable, unimaginable.
CARBON SAVINGS In 2011-2012 we saved 1019 tonnes of C02e. Then, in a three year period (April 20912- March 2015) we saved a further 6976.37 tonnes of C02e. These are immediate savings, by diverting food waste from landfill thereby avoiding creating methane, for example, or by sequestering carbon and enriching soil with compost, but also by eating locally, growing our own food, eating organic, changing the meat we ate (and eating less of it).
OUTREACH We held or attended over 500 outreach events over the three years, engaging with 15,520 people.
We established a community food growing garden, a wildlife and forest garden and a vibrant volunteer and community group who are maintaining them. We hosted 57 events at the garden, including the children’s gardening club, large community lunches and volunteer sessions.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT We ran 79 weekly children’s gardening clubs (79 clubs over three years) and hosted 7 large-scale community events.
LEADING THE WAY We were part of building a new food movement in Scotland that encompasses the right to food, championing small producers, insisting on sustainability as a measurement of quality in food production and celebrating food sovereignty.
NEW ORCHARDS We planted 7 orchards around Scotland from Galloway to Sutherland with our Silver Bough tour (‘ a cultural conversation about apples’).
SCHOOL LUNCHES PILOT We collaborated with Fife Council and the Soil Association in a pilot project exploring regionally sourced, healthy, sustainable and organic school lunches.See here.
INSPIRATIONAL PRINTED MATERIAL We published a series of inspiring posters, postcards, booklets and other materials including recipe books, calendars, guides onnative apple varieties and a booklet on gardening with kids. We also produced a free Ebook for our members of Collected Recipes from the life of the project.
BIRTHING THE ORCHARD COLLECTIVE We curated and hosted the National Orchard gathering and helping the Orchard Collective into existence.
THE BIGGER PICTURE We are proud to have been part of a wider movement and welcomed the collaborative work over the past eight years with such groups as Nourish, the Soil Association, Slow Food, Permaculture Scotland and Transition Towns.