Back in March 2020 when the Covid-19 crisis started, a modest rise in the amount of food being purchased in an average shop by people who thought they might have to self isolate knocked a finely calibrated but complex food supply chain out of kilter. A consequence of that was the appearance of a number of empty shelves in the supermarket. The appearance of empty shelves prompted a number of other people into panic buying which exacerbated the situation.
Seventeen months into the crisis, supply chains are again facing disruption as a consequence of the ‘pingdemic’: Pingdemic ‘threatens food supplies’ amid warnings app is ‘losing social consent’ – Independent | 18.07.21. This is when the NHS Test and Trace app advises the user that they have been in contact with someone who has tested ‘positive’ for Covid-19 and is advised to self isolate, even though they are perfectly well with no symptoms. This is exacerbating the situation with the shortage of the truck drivers that keep the food supply chain functioning: Shortage of HGV drivers exacerbated as UK economy bounces back – Commercial Fleet | 08.07.21. So, when truck driver in an industry already short of drivers is pinged by the NHS Test and Trace app and then self isolates, you can see that this is going to disrupt the food supply chain!
In addition to this, a combination of factors is starting to push up food prices as reported here: Brits face high grocery bills as EU red tape threatens to increase costs – Retail Gazette | 02.06.21. For families on low incomes, increases in the cost of food will place more stress on already stretched budgets.
It doesn’t really come as much of a surprise that an increasing number of people are starting to ask some difficult questions about a complex and fragile food chain that looks increasingly vulnerable. Also, there are the human costs to be considered with some of the foods we import and consume: What’s The Real Human Cost Of Your #CleanEating Obsession? – Grazia.
This explains why more people are looking at ways of securing at least some of their food supply by growing their own. That’s something we’ve always encouraged at Alternative Estuary. What’s important is the collective aspect of doing this. Setting up a community garden / seed bank / food bank is a way of bringing people together and re-building neighbourhood solidarity as well as resilience. In these fractious, troubled times, it’s vital we fend off the divide and rule merchants who would have us at each others throats…
Gaining control of our food supply at the grassroots is not some nice, feel good add on to our lives. It’s certainly not virtue signalling. If we want the freedom and autonomy that we need to live a truly human life, it’s an absolute necessity. This is what the Alternative Estuary project is about – doing what we can to encourage, support and facilitate those taking the first steps towards growing their own food. It’s one of the first steps in what ultimately has to be a full on revolution that will rid us of the techno-fascists and the corporations who are hell bent on exerting their malign control over our lives, once and for all.
Here’s a list of some resources that will hopefully set you and your neighbours on the way to regaining some degree of control over your food supply, your lives and in the bargain, build some much needed community solidarity:
Setting up a community garden
How to Start a Community Garden – Elizabeth Waddington | ethical.net | February 14, 2020
“Community gardens make a community more food-secure. Food security is vital for the long-term survival of any community – yet, all too often, communities become ‘food deserts’, with many people going without enough food. Community gardens ensure access to good-quality, local, and organic food.”
“Community gardens put power back into the hands of local people, reducing reliance on regional authorities or government to provide for their needs. Communities are increasingly recognising that co-operative efforts can improve areas’ wellbeing more quickly than by relying on authorities to do so.”
Set up a community garden – RHS
“A community garden can bring a wide range of benefits – from connecting people with each other to growing fresh food to enjoy. If well-planned, a community garden can offer people a place to relax, a way to engage with nature, meet others and get active outdoors.”
STARTING A COMMUNITY GARDEN – American Community Gardening Association
“This fact sheet is designed to give many different groups the basic information they need to get their gardening project off the ground. These lists are in no way meant to be complete. Each main idea will probably trigger more questions, so an assortment of ways to carry out that idea are presented; pick and choose those that seem to apply to your own situation.”
Although this is from the USA, pretty much most of the information is generic and, as it is a bullet pointed check list, it’s accessible and very useful:)
Setting up a community seed bank
Stroud Community Seed Bank
“As a group, we celebrate locally adapted seed, seed diversity and growing without the use of chemicals. Through Google groups, emails and gatherings, we support each other, share advice, tips and stories to improve our learning and enjoyment of seed saving. At every opportunity, we connect with community members, groups and schools to strengthen community bonds, resilience and spread knowledge of the importance of seed saving.”
How to organize a Community Seed Bank – seedsavers.org
“Unlike their larger counterparts, community seed banks are less about long-term preservation and more about sharing seed season to season. For that reason they’re sometimes called “seed libraries.” No matter what they’re called, the essence of all community seed banks is the same: they’re a central place where seeds (often locally grown) are stored and shared with local growers. Most offer their seed for free because the philosophy behind community seed banks is that seed is not a commodity but a shared community resource.”
Tips for Starting a Successful Community Seed Bank – Catherine Winter | Morning Chores
“We live in a time when food security isn’t a guaranteed thing, and people around the world are taking serious steps to grow their own food and medicine. As you can imagine, one of the most important aspects of this kind of self-sufficiency is high-quality seeds.”
“Considering how expensive heirloom and organic seeds can be, one of the best ways to expand one’s garden is to save and share seeds. Plus, you’re promoting local plant diversity!”
Setting up a community food bank
How to start a foodbank: the story of Luton Foodbank – Left Unity
“What place does food hold in the constellation of human needs? Maslow’s hierarchy of human need puts food among the base of human needs, alongside breathing, water, sex, homeostasis, sleep and excretion. It should be clear to all that food is a basic need, which is central to a cohesive, stable, humane society. Bertolt Brecht wrote in The Threepenny Opera, “First comes feeding, then comes morality.” If you cannot obtain food to feed yourself, then all other questions of culture, morality, law and right become secondary or meaningless.”
Crises – whether natural or human-made – can cause considerable damage to food systems, and in turn, to the ability of people to access safe, affordable food. Building more resilient food systems ensures a more continual supply of safe, accessible food for all members of a community. Local governments, researchers, and food assistance organizations currently have few resources available to ensure that food systems are considered a critical component of disaster preparedness and resilience planning. This project helps to fill that gap by working with local governments in the U.S. to develop resources and evidence that informs their own resilience planning and policy. Collecting real-time data to understand and communicate about the impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on the U.S. food system and food security.
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