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- Food ethics report, Chomp 2023
Ethics As the purchaser of food for Chomp, I would like to discuss the ethical issues we face as a consumer and provider. We find ourselves in an evolutionary period where our food system encourages us to buy pre-made highly processed foods at a much lower cost than if we wanted to make the dish ourselves from fresh produce. Buying foods that have been grown without the use of pesticides cost more than those grown with. We might wonder how we have ended up with a system like this? Our system has evolved over time and developed to meet dietary elements difficult to find in the wild, and of course the fast rising numbers of people on the planet. In this sense, we have succeeded in being able to feed millions of people. This became possible during a period which was named the Green revolution, in which industrial farming was discovered and put into place. Farmers were able to mass produce ingredients such as wheat, sugar and oil, making it more refined and cheaper. This enabled food manufacturers to use these cheaper ingredients to make and market highly processed food; that are now cheaper than less processed and fresh foods. ‘Highly processed foods - high in salt, refined carbohydrates, sugars and fats and low in fibre - are on average three times cheaper per calorie than healthy foods.’ (National Food standards agency, The Plan, 2021) Food system and responsibility. Where we come in. As we know, industrial farming and highly processed foods are damaging our planet and our health . ‘The global food system is the single biggest contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, drought, freshwater pollution, and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to climate change after the energy industry.’ (National Food standards agency, The Plan, 2021). As a Charity who provides meals for an average of 120 ppl per week when our provision is running, with a small budget, we need to keep our costs low. Does this mean we should just buy the cheapest products and fill people up? We don’t believe so. Yes, our Charity was originally set up to make sure holiday hunger was reduced for families in receipt of free school meals, and this is still our main objective. Yet we believe that in delivering this mission we should not view our families as grateful just to receive any food. They deserve fresh food that nourishes them nutritionally as well as filling a gap. Sometimes this is a luxury that they cannot afford to put in place at home. ‘ Of the manufactured food products sold in the UK, 85% are deemed to be so unhealthy they are unsuitable for marketing to children. (In 2018, the home-grown fruit and vegetables market in the UK was worth £2.2bn, whereas confectionery alone – one small section of the processed food market – was worth £4.2bn.26 (National Food standards agency, The Plan, 2021) The responsibility goes far beyond our own food choices, and at Chomp we believe that as a project we hold some of that responsibility. How we shop and what we offer needs to be in line with moving towards a sustainable food system for people and the planet. Produce and Planning. Therefore we want to be transparent about how and where we shop and the thinking behind our choices. Our provision runs year round, which means that we try to follow the British and European food seasons. We use a local wholesale fruit and vegetable supplier, which omits single use plastics from that part of our purchasing. We have a small local butchers whose animals are raised naturally and, be it through a supermarket, we still prioritise buying organic dairy products. Our approach to planning our meals is to use as much seasonal produce as possible as this is more sustainable and inexpensive. This has to be balanced with providing food that is familiar to our families as well as giving them the opportunity to expand their food choices and try new things. Part of our system in place that we find encourages this, is asking family members to help in the prepping, setting up, serving and clearing away of the lunch, as well as rewarding anyone trying anything new with our Chomp stickers. Moving toward a better food system is complex and will take dedication to creating change. It may be obvious that part of that change is education. We have children growing up having to eat the cheaper processed foods, that do not know what foods in their natural state look, feel or taste like. Convenience foods stop people cooking and many are growing up not knowing how to feed themselves well. This is a societal issue that many grassroots food projects are aware of and working to create local change through accessible educational activities. At Chomp we too want to contribute as a project, which is why you will often find an activity at our sessions that is dedicated to learning about food. These are intended to be fun and interactive, getting children and adults alike talking about produce. It is a dedication to the empowerment of children and the future generation. This is a societal issue that needs the collective and consistent work of adults in homes, schools and outside organisations to keep working on and fighting to improve. At Chomp we are proud of what we serve and are always looking for ways to create community, growth and sustainability within what we do.
- Food Education at Chomp
At Chomp we tackle the ever growing issue of food poverty within Brighton and Hove. We do this by running lunch clubs during the school holidays where families on low incomes can come and receive a free meal whilst craft and play is available to them to interact with. Inclusive of what we provide, we feel that it’s important to promote education around food so that our families begin to have more options available to them. If children haven’t grown up with home cooked meals or with access to a variety of foods, then often, as adults they do not have the confidence to work with raw ingredients. We also live within a convenience culture where processed foods are cheaper than local fresh produce. Over the summer we began to look at different fruits and vegetables in ways which felt fun and accessible. We took the humble beetroot and dedicated a table to it where there were tasters of cooked and raw, whole beets to look at and cooked beets to cut up and print with. Beetroot is a versatile vegetable that can be used in both sweet and savoury cooking as well as being used as a natural dye for many years. A parent sitting at the table commented ‘When I look at a beetroot like this, it’s scary.’ She was holding the whole raw beet. So we then began the conversation of how to handle and cook a raw beetroot. And conversations like this are invaluable. They may or may not be the catalyst for change, but they curate curiosity. They create space for new information to be received and begin to be digested. Playing games and working with food through art are also brilliant ways to foster familiarity with food. Many of us learn visually and working this way can create exposure without pressure. What is important to recognise is that we all have a relationship with food. We all have the history of how we were introduced to food and also the habits we create. Food is a product of nature, so through it we too are connected or disconnected to the natural world. The popular phrase of ‘eat the rainbow’ refers to the different nutrients we receive in relation to the colours of our food. Simple nutritional information that we may forget to share with our children and yet in doing so, we increase their awareness and scope for choice. Through our personal relationships with food, we create our beliefs and ethos around it. Food education is a wide subject, with much benefit available to those given the opportunity to explore it. Chomp’s ethos is to carry on exploring this wide and wonderful subject with our families, whilst delivering fresh food, cooked from scratch during our holiday lunch clubs. Our families are given choice and encouraged to try new foods with facilities available to discard anything they don't enjoy. In this we hope to create an atmosphere that is welcoming, accepting, encouraging and non-judgmental around food. We will keep having conversations that matter and championing the education that’s needed; we wholeheartedly believe in making information accessible and supporting young people and parents to eat well. Rosie Blunden 2022
- Free Play at Chomp
‘Toys are children’s words and play is their language’ (Gary L Landreth). There is much more scope for a young person to communicate through play when they don’t have the complex language we adults use. They can recreate scenes, find objects that relate to or represent a feeling, create shapes, images, colours, movement. They can build and then destroy. Play allows a child to practise and experiment with skills and ideas for their development. They can take risks safely, process emotions and simply be in their imaginations. This is essential for children’s emotional and physical development and in today’s world, children don’t get enough opportunity for free play. Issues of safety dominate their world. At Chomp, we set up the space to encourage independent play within the safety of our walls and containment of adults present. Children get few opportunities to be in control and have choice, so having spaces that provide a variety of things to interact with is important and needed more within our city. This need is especially there for children over twelve years of age. In a Chomp session you will find a specific craft option that is usually linked to mindful activities, current culture or nature’s rhythms. There may be a visitor who could have artifacts to look at, community art projects to contribute to, stories or dance to get involved with. This is another specific option. Around these tables sit others with a range of toys to play with, hula hoops to hula with, bean bags to throw, stories to read, dolls houses to set up house, lego to build with and of course the football table, which is very popular! Children at chomp are free to interact with any or none of our set up and we are there to facilitate their choices. Rosie Blunden 2022