Human Food Project

Human Food Project

Nearly 50% of the world’s population lives in urban settings – with that number expected to increase dramatically over the next few decades. While this mass migration of humanity has greatly improved opportunities for many, mounting evidence suggest it comes at an ecological price for the inhabitants of these new concrete and steel villages of the modern world.

If you were to drop a Hadza hunter-gatherer from Tanzania at a street corner of one of these mega-cities, the endless stream of cars, noise and frenzied running about would no doubt cause some trepidation as he slowly stepped back from the street corner. I suspect it wouldn’t take long for our Hadza friend to think to himself, “what have these people done with all the plants and animals?” 

With real estate at a premium and a Starbucks needed on every street, there’s very little incentive to nurture nature anywhere outside of designated parks, limited green spaces or on our window seals. As mounting research and our work in Africa with the Hadza is starting to reveal, humanities steady march away from nature and its menagerie of plants, animals and microbes, may have given rise to one of the greatest, ongoing ecological disasters in human history: the modern human gut.

Advances in technology and computing power have lead to an astounding drop in the costs of genetic research. At the forefront of this new scientific and medical revolution has been the study of microbes – the tiny little bacteria, viruses and fungi that inhabit every imaginable piece of fleshy real estate – inside and out – of every living thing on earth. And that includes us.

What researchers are starting to discover is that these tiny little microbes might be playing a role in diseases as diverse as obesity, autoimmune disease, heart disease, IBD/IBS, cognitive disorders, atopy, some cancers, and so on. 

For the last few years, colleagues and I have been living and working with the Hadza hunter-gatherers of East Africa. Far from being untouched by the modern world, the Hadza still collect and hunt nearly the same plants and animals that humans have for millions of years. Importantly, as an active and intimate member of the landscape of East Africa, the Hadza are literally covered in the patina of nature and its diversity microbes, which has endowed the Hadza with one of the most diverse set of gut microbes of any group in the world. It’s not a stretch to say that the Hadza gut, and presumably that of our not-so-distant ancestors, sits at the crossroads of a microbial super highway that shaped our immunity and what made us human.

As mounting evidence has started to reveal, the ongoing assault against our microbial diversity in the modern world through our buildings that walls off the microbial world outside to the overuse of antibiotics to changing birthing methods and a decrease in breastfeeding to diet and hyper-hygiene, has “potentially” led to an increase in a dizzying number of modern ailments.

With the kind support of the A Team Foundation and others, we will continue to try to understand what the gut (and skin) microbiome of a free-living human population looks like as the Hadza literally run gut first into the buzz saw of globalization. The clock is ticking.

Our work is not focused – or even suggesting – that a Hadza diet is what we should be eating. What we are suggesting and discovering is that all humans on Earth may have depended on nature for a steady flow of microbes – that is, constant dispersal and immigration from a pool or sink of microbes maintained in nature. This intimate connection to the microbial super highway on the landscapes that gave rise to our genus, assured that humans had a steady supply of new microbes to bolster against any drop in diversity brought on by shifts in diet or other perturbations of life.

Remove that natural source of microbes – what we’ve essentially done in the modern world – then any assault on our gut microbiome such as antibiotics or diet could possibly be met with a shift in our inner ecosystem that may tilt one towards opening the microbial door to disease. If this is indeed the case, then human-microbe health is directly linked to ecosystems much larger than ourselves. 

FEEDBACK: GLEANING NETWORK

FEEDBACK: GLEANING NETWORK

Food production is the single biggest impact humans have had on the world’s natural environment, and yet, one third of food is wasted - enough to feed three billion people. As shocking as this is, it also presents a huge opportunity. Tackling food waste is one of the most effective ways to address climate change and environmental degradation at its root cause, whilst increasing food availability where needed most.

Founded in 2009, Feedback specialises in exposing the hidden causes of food waste at every level of the food system and bringing people together to find solutions. With a track record in changing the policies of the world's biggest food companies and reaching out to millions of people through our fun, celebratory projects, our innovative campaigning style has elevated food waste from a non-issue several years ago to one now recognized as an urgent international priority.

Gleaning Network - Feedback - A Team Foundation

The majority of food waste is hidden from the public eye. It arises in the supply chains of supermarkets who cancel orders from farmers at the last minute and reject fruit and vegetables that do not fit strict size, shape or colour criteria. Cosmetic rejections can be up to 40% of a farmer’s crop. We set up Gleaning Network UK to address this: coordinating volunteers, farmers and charities to harvest nutritious and delicious ‘imperfect’ produce that would otherwise be wasted on UK farms, and directing it to people in need. We also engage with decision-makers in business and government to improve the policies and practices that cause this waste.

From the start of Gleaning Network UK in 2012 to the end of 2016, we have held 154 gleaning days. More than 1,500 volunteers have joined us in the fields to save 288 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables from going to waste - over 3 million portions of food. We now operate from six regional Gleaning Hubs and have proliferated the spread of gleaning across Europe. Media attention has sky-rocketed - we’ve featured in the likes of the Guardian, Independent on Sunday, and on prime-time television with both Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Channel 4’s ‘Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast’ and BBC One’s ‘Hugh’s War on Waste’).

Vera, our Sussex Gleaning Coordinator says: “Gleaning days bring people together to do something positive, refreshing and beneficial to the thousands of individuals and families suffering in our communities. From the stories I hear, it’s clear that these gleans offer a sense of satisfaction, friendships, belonging and a free bag of food- which for many can go a long way! This work is vital, because it brings fresh food to those who need it most, but even more importantly because it provides the glue to keep our communities together and thriving.”

To find out more, and hear how to get involved, view this TEDx talk by Feedback’s Gleaning Coordinator Martin Bowman. It’s packed full of puns and quirky anecdotes - including why he once had over 200kg of parsnips in his bedroom.

Through the Gleaning Network EU project, we aim to continually build a coalition of gleaning movements across Europe. Already this network includes partner organisations in Belgium, France, Greece and Spain; we hope other European countries will join us soon. Click here to read more about Gleaning Network EU.

Feedback - Gleaning - A Team Foundation
Feedback Logo - A Team Foundation

school food matters

school food matters

School Food Matters is a small but influential charity that punches above its weight. We campaign on school food policy and deliver food education through our innovative projects.  Our mission is to ensure that every child enjoys fresh sustainable food at school and understands where their food comes from.

School Food Matters - A Team Foundation

The charity was founded in 2007 by a parent perplexed by the school food offered to her two small children; frozen food, unappealing and quite often unidentifiable.  She then heard a head teacher declare that children at his primary school couldn't identify an onion, let alone know what to do with it.  There was clearly a job to be done.

We began working with The A Team in 2011 when the charity needed extra capacity to help it grow from a one-woman mission focused on a local campaign to an organisation reaching children across the UK through policy development and its exciting food education programmes.

The A Team has helped us to reach an important milestone.  2017 marks our 10th birthday and we’ve got much to celebrate. Our food education programmes have reached tens of thousands of children across London and beyond we’ve racked up some pretty impressive numbers:

  • 52,140 children have been either directly or indirectly involved in our projects
  • Over £16,500 has been raised by children participating in our enterprise projects to support food education
  • Since 2010, 267 schools have taken part in our programme.
  • Over 60 different varieties of fruit and vegetables have been grown and sold by school children.
http://schoolfoodmatters.org/

Projects help us deliver our mission and help schools tackle issues around healthy food and nutrition in a really exciting way but campaigning and advocacy work remain central to our charity's core purpose. 

School Food Matters - A Team Foundation

As a result of our successful campaign in Richmond, school meals across 60 primary schools have been transformed and children now enjoy fresh sustainable school food cooked on site by skilled school cooks. Take-up of school meals has doubled and the cost of a school meal still remains lower than in 2010 when children were eating those frozen ready-meals!

Our success in Richmond caught the attention of the School Food Plan (SFP), the team tasked by the Department for Education to create an action plan to support head teachers to improve school food. As a member of the SFP Expert Panel, SFM was able to bring to the policy table an example of just what can be achieved with parent power, effective campaigning and a will to get the very best deal for school children.  The work of the Plan continues in the form of the School Food Plan Alliance; a group that have become custodians of the Plan and its 17 actions.

From its humble beginnings, School Food Matters now has six core members of staff and together with our dynamic board of trustees and a band of enthusiastic volunteers, we’ll be celebrating 10 years and reflecting on how far we’ve come!

School Food Matters - A Team Foundation
http://schoolfoodmatters.org/
http://schoolfoodmatters.org/

Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture

 

The CSA Network UK is the only organisation working solely to promote community supported agriculture (CSA) across the UK and to support CSA farms. Community supported agriculture is a partnership between farmers and consumers in which the responsibilities, risks and rewards of farming are shared. Thanks to funding from the A Team Foundation and money raised via a crowdfunding campaign, and with the support of the Soil Association, the CSA Network UK was launched in December 2013.

CSA - COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE - A TEAM FOUNDATION

Since April 2015 we have been completely independent with our own project co-ordinator and we also secured core funding from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. Over the last two years we have greatly expanded our activities and impact and have seen the CSA movement continue to grow.

We have increased our membership to 45 CSA farms from 26 when we first set up. There have also been a number of new CSAs setting up over the last two years.  This includes:  Steepholding in Devon, Wild Roots Veg in Sussex,  Waterland Organics in Cambridgeshire, Plotgate CSA in Somerset,  Forest & Folk Community Supported Herbalism in Milton Keynes, Chadlington Kitchen Garden in Oxfordshire,  Frith Farm in Yorkshire, Southern Roots Organics in Dorset, Transition Turriefield, Tap O Noth Permaculture and Tomnah'a Market Garden in Scotland, and Gerlan Bach, Torth y Tir, and Old Lands CSA in Wales.

We have set up a mentoring programme for new and existing CSAs, which we are able to provide at a subsidised rate thanks to funding from the Awards for All programme. We have already had great feedback from participants for example Plotgate CSA said the mentoring was incredibly useful and they would thoroughly recommend the service to other CSAs.

We organised a national CSA Network UK Open Day on 1 October 2016 when CSA farms around the country organised public events to help raise awareness of what community supported agriculture is all about. Around 35 farms took part and organised fun activities, such as squash harvesting, raspberry picking, apple pressing, pig feeding, bring a dish meals, farm tours and lots more. We will be running the event again this year and have already received a grant from Celebrate Wales to enable us to give a bursary to CSA farms in Wales that are taking part.

We held CSA networking and training events all over the country including events at Whitmuir Community Farm near Edinburgh, Canalside Community Food near Leamington Spa, Fork & Dig It in Brighton, Sims Hill in Bristol, and Five Acre Farm in Coventry.

We have also just organised a national CSA Sign Up Day on 1 March 2017. This is based on the successful CSA Day run by Small Farm Central in the US. This was a day to promote CSA farms across the country and get new members to sign up at the start of the season when farms need support most. We have not evaluated the day yet but we had lots of great publicity and Camel CSA said they recruited at least 10 new members on top of their existing 40 members.

Overall we are very pleased with our progress, although in order to be sustainable in the long term the network still relies on our income from individual supporters, as well as our farm members. So if you would like to help support the growth of CSAs in the UK and promote a fairer, more transparent model of food production please join us: 

https://communitysupportedagriculture.org.uk/join-csa-network/

CSA - COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE - A TEAM FOUNDATION

GAIA Foundation : Seed Sovereignty

GAIA Foundation : Seed Sovereignty

The Seed Sovereignty Programme is an ambitious 3-year venture to develop a resilient, agroecological seed system across the UK and Ireland. The Gaia Foundation is working closely with actors across the existing seed movement - including the Soil Association, the Organic Research Centre, the Irish Seed Savers Association, the Seed Cooperative and the Landworkers Alliance - and supporting new and emerging projects across the diverse landscapes of the British Isles. This is the first large-scale collaborative effort of its kind in the UK and Ireland. 

With genetic and agro-biodiversity as its central focus, the programme is underpinned by the principles of seed and food sovereignty - the right to locally adapted seed, available to all.  The programme will support the broad range of agro-ecological farming operations that exist, incorporating all seed grown within these systems. It will encourage skill sharing, networking and collaboration across the UK seed movement, creating a more cohesive and connected counter force to the pressures of industrial agriculture, and the uncertainty ahead as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.  

The programme aims to:

Strengthen existing and establish new regional networks and seed co-operatives through the creation of Regional Hubs, peer-to-peer learning exchanges, networking and the creation of a central online space.

Support farmers and growers to develop their skills and have access to equipment and information via on-farm training in seed production, saving and storage. There will be on-farm variety trials, participatory plant breeding and a seed facilitation fund to give small grants to seed projects needing support. 

Foster a more supportive environment for a biodiverse and ecologically sustainable seed system to thrive by engaging the next generation of farmers and growers, creating a public-awareness and education campaign and engaging key decision-makers at policy level. 

Background

The idea for the programme emerged following the Great Seed Festival in 2014, which, coordinated by The Gaia Foundation,  ‘celebrated the seeds that feed us’ by bringing together a multitude of actors from across the seed movement over one October weekend in central London. With smaller sister festivals and events round the UK, it tapped into a thriving but largely disparate network of committed seed savers and activists from Scotland to Cornwall, Ireland to Wales. Through coordinating the Festival it became apparent that whilst there were a great number of initiatives addressing issues around food – food poverty, waste, community growing schemes, etc – there was relatively little being done in the UK to protect seed, revive seed knowledge and ensure the availability of good quality, organic seed for both commercial and small scale growers.  

The shape of the programme itself has been influenced by the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security led by USC Canada and now in its sixth year. The Canadian programme reaches from coast to coast and includes participatory plant breeding, support for local seed libraries, training and knowledge exchange, granting to scale up regional seed production, and a national seed trialing program. It has been hugely successful and whilst there will be a number of difference with the UK and Ireland programme, it will benefit greatly from this experience. 

Why is it so critical? 

Almost everything we eat comes from a seed. We cannot have food security without seed security and yet, the importance of seed goes largely unnoticed. Around the world, seed diversity is threatened with 75% of plant genetic diversity lost since the 1990s. Of the 80,000 edible species available for food production, only 150 are currently grown. 

Biodiversity is critical for ensuring a secure and sustainable food system. At a time of climate crisis, there has never been greater urgency to re-build global seed diversity. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization: “Plant genetic diversity is ... one of the central preconditions for food security. It ... provides the genetic traits required to address crop pests, diseases and changing climate conditions”. Diversity in plants also gives us a range of options for raising the healthiest and most productive crops. No matter what changes happen in our food system, we will always be able to adapt if we have enough genetic diversity.

Gaia Foundation - A Team Foundation - Seed Sovereignty