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September Food Thinkers: Past Approaches for Future Food?

Centre For Food Policy
Event date
Event time
5:15pm BST

Organiser's description (via Centre for Food Policy):

When we imagine transforming food systems to be sustainable, healthy, and just, we rarely think about a food-system transformation from recent British history. But starting in the late 1930s, British agriculture, supply networks, and citizen diets underwent major shifts to increase the possibility that almost 50 million domestic citizens would have enough to eat during the chaos of World War II. And though the objectives of the wartime food programs — to help the nation toward a military victory — were different from our objectives today, they echo current ideas about sustainable agriculture and diets. Wartime food production was more local, more plant- and less animal-based, and more productive on given amounts of land. Wartime food consumption had more vegetables, more home-grown food, fewer processed items, and much less food waste. The national food programs constituted an unprecedented and complex project that included mistakes and was far from perfect. But ultimately the programs maintained a level of citizen sustenance and morale that helped win the war, and that delivered co-benefits of the types discussed in the recent City Food Policy Symposium. Co-benefits of the wartime food project included improved population health, especially for low-income citizens, and some revitalization of the British farm sector.  In this talk, Eleanor will tell the food story and show connections between its outcomes and current quests to address multiple food-system challenges. She will suggest that we emulate bold and often-mandatory wartime approaches to help reach today's goals for climate, biodiversity, equality, access to healthy food, and dignified farm livelihoods.

Eleanor Boyle is a Canadian writer focusing on how food systems can support climate, health, and justice. She has extensive connections with the UK, as a grandchild of West Midlands grocers, as a Press Fellow at Cambridge University, and recently as a student at City, University of London for an MSc in Food Policy.  Eleanor also holds degrees in in Behavioural Sciences (BSc) and Neuroscience (PhD) and taught college for years. Also a long-time journalist, Eleanor authored High Steaks: Why and How to Eat Less Meat (New Society, 2012), and recently Mobilize Food! Wartime Inspiration for Environmental Victory Today (Friesen Press, 2022). Her writings relevant to this talk include:

  • “The climate crisis is like a world war. So let’s talk about rationing.” Opinion piece in The Globe and Mail, Dec. 2019
  • “‘Victory is in the Kitchen’: Wartime Lessons for Today’s Food Systems?” Table Debates (blog)

The talk will be followed by an online Q&A session.

More information and registration details can be found here.