Conference will explore food production and distribution
People in Devon are already beginning to take concerns about food shortages seriously, but more needs to be done according to the co-organiser of a special conference which sets out to address issues that could see Westcountry folk go hungry in future times.
Martyn Goss, director of church and society for the Exeter diocese, believes that society should be thinking about the tough times ahead before a crisis hits.
"There are two ways of doing it – we can address the situation when we hit a problem – but often that is too late. The second way is to encourage people to think much more about food now," says co-organiser of the Devon Food Conference, which takes place on October 18, near Crediton.
The event is centred on the question: "Will the ways we produce and distribute our food in Devon continue into the future?"
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Delegates will discuss issues like – just how critical food is to Devon's economy and environment?
"Farming, fishing and food production are essential components of our culture," say the organisers. "In addition, there is traditional Devon fare, food festivals, meat, fruit and vegetable competitions and hundreds of restaurants or eating places.
"Yet at the same time, food poverty is a growing reality for some local people. The growth in food banks in the county reflects this reality, with more food boxes being requested by families."
Mr Goss enlarged upon this fact when talking to the Western Morning News: "There are now some 15 food banks in the county and many people rely on them. We have found in the past couple of years that community food projects have been springing up.
"People are beginning to produce their own food – and often they've found good social reasons for doing so as well. We are seeing things like community orchards, garden food sharing, food recycling… There are now around 80 projects in Devon.
"Supermarkets are convenient and we are becoming used to that," Mr Goss continued. "But if you read about the food crisis which occurred a few years ago, there were only two to three weeks' supply left. That happened because of industrial action, but it could also happen for many other reasons."
He added that food security in this country was like walking a tightrope – shortages could occur because of increasing oil prices or bad harvests due to climate change.
"We hope this conference will catch people's imaginations," said Mr Goss, alluding to some examples of self-help in food production and distribution which were already happening in Devon.
"We have a project in Exeter called Harvest – people in the outer estates are growing their own food and collecting surplus fruit growing on other people's land and in public places. That's been going for three years and hundreds of people get involved growing food in their window boxes and public gardens etc."
The Devon Food Conference will feature well known authors Colin Tudge and Ruth West who will be talking about how agricultural systems should change in order to address high energy prices and declining natural resources.
The conference is being organised by the Diocese of Exeter's church and society team, with Exeter University. Booking is advised on 01392 294940 or email: email@example.com