Tag: climate crisis

Why a post-COVID recovery must ensure a transformation of our food system

12th May 20 by Mia Watanabe

Food is a right, not a luxury, and it’s time for our food system to reflect this.

Click here to listen to a recording of this blog

Over recent weeks in the UK we have witnessed gallons of milk being poured down drains by independent farmers who are being refused collections by supermarkets. Vegetables are rotting in fields because we cannot guarantee safety and dignity to the low-paid migrant workforces on whom we depend to harvest this produce. Tonnes of food continues to be wasted all whilst thousands of people go hungry. Why? Because our food system, that places profit over livelihoods, is not equipped to handle a crisis. This system is fragile, and we are seeing it crumble before us.

It’s no question that our food system was broken already. This has only been exacerbated by the crisis: this system simultaneously produces masses of surplus whilst failing to feed everyone, with more and more people relying on food banks than ever before to compensate for this disaster. There has been a 73% increase in supplies being distributed by food banks over the past five years, and a 23% increase from 2018 to 2019 alone. Between 2010 and 2016, 4,000 small-scale farms in the UK closed, according to Defra. These are signs of a system that is not only failing but is systematically depriving the most vulnerable in our society of their basic right to food. In a post-COVID society under economic turmoil, these issues will only become more pertinent unless drastic action is taken to transform what, and how, we eat.

The UK’s food and farming industries employ 1 in 8 working people. Those who work in food service, however, saw their sector collapse overnight. With no guarantees to a fair wage and thousands of key workers in grocery stores and food processing plants left with no choice but to face the coronavirus head on, it is imperative that any efforts to recover from the pandemic places food issues at its centre. A transformation of our food system is necessary if we are to build back better.

For many of us, our experiences of food in lockdown have been mixed. There’s been a reported 34% reduction of household food waste since lockdown started as a result of individuals being more careful about the food they consume, with visits to grocery stores becoming a somewhat perilous excursion. We’ve seen radical forms of cooperation and care-giving flourish through mutual aid networks whose actions have involved distributing free meals and delivering shopping for neighbours. Bread making has introduced an entry point to baking for many new cooks and as some people find daily catharsis through punching their sourdough, others are rage baking with their communities. Whether it’s shortening supply chains, or reducing long journeys for livestock, these resourceful, and often radical, adaptations to the way we eat under lockdown should be seen as a foundation to the world we want to rebuild.

To do this, we must challenge our “barriers of imagination”. Currently, less than 20% of Britons are optimistic that the quality and the environmental impact of the food they eat will get better in the future. Even less are optimistic about their access to healthy food. In a society that is so pessimistic about the food we eat, a just recovery for our food systems is an opportunity to imagine big and better. We must ensure we have a national food strategy that works for people, not profit. We need fair wages for agricultural workers whose labour, as we are now witnessing, provides a backbone to feeding our communities. We need access to healthy food for everyone, leaving no one hungry. And finally, we must pandemic-proof our food system to ensure that this does not happen again. Food is a right, not a luxury, and it’s time for our food system to reflect this.

Help us get good food to those who need it

The global pandemic means that our work in getting fresh, nutritious produce to people has never been more critical. We need your support to help make this happen. Any funds raised now will be committed to our COVID-19 food rescue, preparation and redistribution work.

Donate now

Feedback’s response to the COVID-19 crisis

26th Mar 20 by Carina Millstone

The response of communities, civil society and citizens are giving us a glimpse of a more resilient and fairer food system

Feedback, like many fellow civil society organisations, has emerged into this strange, deeply worrying new world somewhat bewildered and disorientated, but with a renewed determination to do whatever we can to help.

We have started to redeploy much of our work towards COVID-19 relief efforts. In Merseyside, our Alchemic Kitchen has turned its hobs and chopping boards to producing fresh, healthy and nourishing soup, which we are sharing with vulnerable people via our extensive network of community groups and service delivery organisations. At a time when many people are struggling to access enough food, there are also large amounts of food at risk of being wasted, and Lucy and her team are rescuing as much as they can from closed cafes and restaurants and wholesalers. We hope to continue rescuing food and turning it into delicious soups and other products for community groups in Merseyside throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

As many of you will know, Feedback has a long history of rescuing produce that would otherwise go to waste from farms: for many years, we have organised volunteers and trained community groups to go gleaning. In the last few weeks, we have spoken to our partner farmers and many of them are facing unprecedented challenges: some supplying the hospitality industry have seen their business dry up overnight, while others are deeply worried about lack of staff to harvest produce, a situation which will gets worse as the year progresses. Already our partner gleaning groups have been organising to recover food from fields in Kent to distribute to those in need in their local community; and we are currently working out how we can best use our networks of farmers, gleaners and community groups to make sure fresh, healthy produce does not go to waste, but instead goes to some of the more vulnerable members of our society in this difficult time.

The COVID- 19 pandemic has starkly brought to the fore the vulnerabilities of our food system. It has exposed our risky dependency on global food supply chains; it has reminded us of the country’s  food insecurity and lack of farming skills The supermarket stockpiling pandemonium has also shown us the inadequacy of individual consumer responses in facing up to the collective challenge of fair access to food – while neighbours, communities, mutual aid groups and NHS volunteers are inspiring us with their determination to make sure no one is left behind.

At Feedback, our work has always been about creating a more plant-based, less wasteful, fairer and ecological food system. The COVID-19 food crisis is showing that our work is more necessary than ever. The response of communities, civil society and citizens across the country are giving us a glimpse of the more resilient and fairer food system we strive for. Inspired by this, we will redouble our efforts over the coming months – on the ground and through our campaigns – to transform the food system, and make sure we do not bounce back but step forward from this crisis, leaving behind a corporate profit driven food system, to one that prioritises health, equity and ecological renewal.

We wish you and your loved ones well. Please stay in touch for updates and consider donating to us if you can– any funds raised now will be committed to our COVID-19 food rescue, preparation and redistribution work.

Carina and the Feedback Team

Help us get good food to those who need it

The global pandemic means that our work in getting fresh, nutritious produce to people has never been more critical. We need your support to help make this happen. Any funds raised now will be committed to our COVID-19 food rescue, preparation and redistribution work.

Donate now

A load of tripe?

12th Mar 20 by Christina O'Sullivan

To eat meat or not to eat meat, is that the right question?

Big Livestock, the rearing of livestock on an industrial scale, has a massive negative impact on our planet, 36% of world crops are used to feed livestock, not people. Meanwhile, animal-based foods (meat and dairy) only deliver 12% of the world’s food calories. For environmental reasons many of us have turned to meat-free diets to reduce our carbon footprint. For those of us who want to eat meat we need to adopt a ‘Less and Better’ approach and I have an offal-y good place to start.

Recent research focusing on Germany’s meat supply chain showed the single most effective way to reduce emissions from producing meat is unsurprisingly to eat less of it, showing that halving meat consumption could reduce Germany’s meat emissions by 32%. The study also showed that eating more offal could significantly reduce emissions. If 50% less offal was wasted, then emissions could fall by 14%. If we are going to eat meat, we should eat the whole animal. Eating more offal and reducing overall meat consumption means less intensive meat production i.e. less animals living in factory farms.

This approach should be adopted across all the food we eat; nose to tail, fin to gill and root to stem. Waste is not just what goes in the bin but in the food we often opt to overlook. Feedback’s productivity principle stipulates minimal environmental damage for maximum nutrition consumed and the same principle should be applied to how we eat at home. It takes so much precious natural resources to produce the food on our plates it is important to make the most of it. Plus, if like me you enjoy getting creative in the kitchen it is a fun challenge. For some inspiration check out our Alchemic Kitchen who work magic with surplus food.

“Offal opens up the sense of the whole beast to the Western world, gives greater value to those cuts and brings back greater skills into our kitchens,” Trevor Gulliver, co-founder the first nose-to-tail restaurant, St. John, in London

Maybe the answer isn’t solely focusing on restricting our diets but enjoying a greater more sustainable variety. Less chicken breasts and more tripe – try it you might love it!


What can you do next?

Follow us on Instagram to see our work in action.

Follow us

What food campaigners can learn from fossil fuel divestment

20th Feb 20 by Mia Watanabe, Big Livestock Campaigner

Divestment campaigning is more than the process of divesting alone.

I’ve struggled to write this blog. Every time I sit down with the task of writing it, I am met with a strange, unsettling feeling – a collision of hope and defeat. I’ve been involved in divestment campaigning for almost three years now and yet none of the institutions for which I have campaigned have divested from fossil fuels nor arms companies. When I think back to June 8th 2018, the day our university decided to reject fossil fuel divestment after a lengthy process of reviewing the case, when I think of the university’s decision to employ bailiffs to forcibly evict students occupying its central offices in the days running up to the decision, when I think of fossil fuel divestment, I feel deflated. Yet, three years later, I am still campaigning for it. This time it’s for the end of Big Livestock.

That’s not to say that campaigning for divestment hasn’t been successful or effective. The thing about divestment is that, well, it’s not entirely about divesting.

At first glance the way it works seems simple: get institutions to remove their investments from multinational, planet-destroying corporations (historically this has targeted fossil fuels, the arms trade, and South Africa’s system of apartheid). In many cases, the value of divestment is large enough to affect financial strain on these companies. When the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, Norway’s $1.1 trillion Government Pension Fund, announced its plans to divest from oil and gas last year, 134 companies experienced a plunge of £130m from their combined stock market value. In others where the value of fossil fuel investments is smaller, the act is more symbolic – a signal of solidarity with those on the front lines of climate breakdown. Currently, 79 UK Universities, many with smaller endowments, have announced plans to divest from fossil fuels in some form. Disassociating ourselves from these destructive companies stigmatises them and consequently, BP, ExxonMobil, and Shell have become known as villains.

This is the end goal, but divestment campaigning is more than the process of divesting alone. Especially when, in many scenarios, including my own, the ‘win’ sometimes seems so far away, divestment facilitates a different kind of movement building.

My experiences with Cambridge Zero Carbon Society helped me to engage with issues far beyond the reach of an aggregate of individuals. Zero Carbon, which began in 2007 and re-launched in 2015, has seen hundreds of students involved with the campaign. I spent most of my second and third year of university plotting direct actions, writing press statements, and coordinating campaigners. Targeting the CEOs of the world’s worst corporate polluters now seemed tangible. In protesting events, blockading offices, and occupying our university’s central offices, we were fighting something bigger than us. Fossil fuel divestment has helped shift the narrative away from choices made by individuals and towards the consequences of corporate power. The burden of climate anxiety no longer isolated me but was uprooted collectively.

But the issue of industrial agriculture has lagged. The impact of meat and dairy consumption on the environment is framed as a ‘lifestyle’ issue. We are constantly being bombarded with messages to eat less meat, buy more vegetables, or go vegan and while these can be empowering choices and a step in the right direction, they are not always in our own hands. These are choices overshadowed by the structural issues and corporate powers that monopolise the industry – from systemic racism in access to nourishing food, to the wild success of meat and dairy lobbyists. We’ve moved beyond the conversations about switching off lights and cycling to work, so when it comes to an industry that’s producing 7.14 Gt of emissions each year, why do we continue to emphasise individual consumption? Divesting from Big Livestock will not only cause financial damage to some of the world’s worst polluters, but it will also open up new ways of thinking and talking about food.

By looking beyond our dinner plates and questioning who funds the meat that is on them, we begin to unpack the power structures that prop up this potent industry. Campaigning for divestment exposes the institutions complicit in Amazonian deforestation, the universities that fund slave labour conditions in meatpacking plants, and the museums and galleries that enable land grabbing from indigenous territories. Divestment is effective because it makes tangible the structural issues at play. It forms cross-campaign solidarity so that campaigners can stand with those on the front lines of climate breakdown.

Without sounding like the ‘maybe the real treasure is the friends we made along the way’ meme, the value of divestment campaigns isn’t only in the investments, the bonds, or the billions held in Shell, but the communities of solidarity, we foster in the process.


Image credit – Graham CopeKoga 



What can you do next?

Follow us on Instagram to see our work in action.

Follow us

Feedback’s responds to new food waste figures

24th Jan 20 by Martin Bowman, Senior Policy and Campaigns Manager

The government must introduce binding targets to halve food waste from farm to fork by 2030.

WRAP has published a report on food waste reduction over the past three years. The figures out today have shown that while household food waste has dropped by 0.405 million tonnes, a whopping 4.5 million tonnes is still wasted per year, and business food waste has dropped by a mere 0.07 million tonnes over the last 3 years. Read our response to the research below;

“These figures confirm that voluntary business action on food waste cannot solve the problem. Post-farmgate food businesses have collectively cut their waste by a negligible 1% per year over the last 3 years. Despite big promises to halve food waste by 2030, the food industry is planning on achieving less than half that reduction, and the huge amounts of fresh produce left to rot on farms are still excluded from national targets. With food waste a key contributor to climate change, time running out to get our emissions under control and the UN climate summit in Glasgow fast approaching, it is now absolutely clear that the government must introduce binding targets to halve food waste from farm to fork by 2030, and make it compulsory for large food businesses to report their food waste data publicly.” 

Sign our petition – tell governments to make businesses come clean on food waste now.


2020 is here – described by some as the beginning of ‘the decisive decade’ for the climate emergency.

2020 is also the year Feedback enters our second decade campaigning to end waste and create a healthy and sustainable food system, and we are more keenly aware of our responsibility than ever. We rely on donations from our supporters to carry out this vital work.

Donate now

Healthy mindset to adapt to climate change? Check.

8th Jan 20 by Claire Woodhill, Food Citizens Project Manager

My next question was to ask what the young people valued – what was the most important thing to them?

Food citizenship is a slippery concept, as I’ve found over the past 18 months piloting new ways to help people in Buckinghamshire think of themselves as food citizens rather than food consumers, and in doing so to waste less food and see the connections between food and the environment. Between September and December 2019, we delivered a series of workshops in the county. We worked with a group of mums at St Andrew’s Church in High Wycombe, and with year 8’s at The Grange School in Aylesbury.

In both sets of workshops, we explored our current food system, dietary trends and the effect our food has on our environment, how it contributes to the climate and ecological crisis.

We also looked at the idea of ‘Food Citizenship’ – how by moving beyond seeing ourselves as passive consumers with no agency, to instead see ourselves as active participants in the system, we can empower ourselves to make meaningful change. Both sets of workshops brought forth encouraging discoveries.

In week 2 of our workshops with the year 8’s (aged 13-14) we stumbled into a conversation on values (always worth exploring when talking about the environment). We had been talking about wasting food in the canteen, how the trend was to ask for more even if you knew you wouldn’t be able to finish it and would throw half in the bin, because the more food on your plate the more you had got for your money.

In this I could see an understanding of the value of money, what was missing was an understanding of the value of food. Pointing this out. My next question was to ask what the young people valued – what was the most important thing to them? Asking this, I was worried I’d be met with shouts of ‘my iPad’, ‘my Xbox’, etc. and that I would have to take them on a journey to find the fundamental answer. I underestimated them.

The instant and resounding answer from all over the room was ‘my family’, ‘my friends’.

If taking personal action, to mitigate the climate and ecological emergency is going to be sufficient to meet the scale of the crisis, for the majority of us in the west this is likely to mean a reduction in our current ‘living standards’. We are therefore going to need to remember what’s truly important for a happy and good quality life. I’m pleased to say the next generation already knows, and it’s the first thing that comes to mind when asked the question. With this mindset already established I know we’re ready and able to make the changes needed: the question is how to catalyse and unlock action from a place which activates these values. There’s lot of interesting research on how to do this, which we will explore as the programme continues.

In our workshops with the group of mums, after walking through the reasons why diet change is integral and likely inevitable in the long run, we talked through how introducing more vegetarian meals to our families might be possible. Although worried about their family’s reception of less meat, all women were keen to make the change – a finding which mirrored Feedback’s experience of talking about reducing meat consumption more widely. People may fear the reaction of others, but they fundamentally feel that this is a good and necessary thing to do. That looks only set to increase, with 29% of 11-18 who currently eat meat wanting to reduce their meat consumption. What the mums wanted and needed to assist in integrating this change was a larger repertoire of vegetarian meals to work with, tasty meals that would win their families over.

Across the UK the message of how urgent the climate situation is has reached people and they are ready to act. What we need now is to encourage and support this transition through new free community initiatives that give people the knowledge and skills to make the changes needed. Beyond providing the practical skills, such initiatives would also help deliver the social and cultural shift needed to bring about sustainable diet change across the whole country.

Our next steps in our Buckinghamshire work include reaching out to a wider audience to test which messages about food and climate have the most impact, and to explore how to help set up practical, locally run initiatives that assists people in increasing the amount of vegetarian meals they eat per week.

2020 is here – described by some as the beginning of ‘the decisive decade’ for the climate emergency.

2020 is also the year Feedback enters our second decade campaigning to end waste and create a healthy and sustainable food system, and we are more keenly aware of our responsibility than ever. We rely on donations from our supporters to carry out this vital work.

Donate now

Looking for Lochmuir

12th Dec 19 by Christina O'Sullivan

M&S win the 2019 Total Bull award for their 'Fake Loch' branding

*** Campaign update – victory! ***

We’re delighted to see on Twitter that M&S are now planning to phase out their ‘Lochmuir’ fake loch brand, which they’ve used since 2006 to promote their farmed salmon. Brands like this are plain misleading – supermarkets choose them to give an impression of how food like farmed salmon is produced which often just isn’t true. We’re glad M&S have decided to drop the Bull and the Lochmuir brand. See below for more on our campaign Fishy Business.

Where does your salmon come from?

It can be difficult to know what to eat – with increasing alarm over the impact that Big Livestock has on our planet and a never-ending parade of opinion pieces telling us what should be on our plates.

But I always thought farmed salmon was one of the good things.  It is marketed as healthy (loaded with Omega-3) and good for the environment (takes pressure off wild fish stocks). Scottish salmon is marketed as particularly virtuous – a local product sourced from pristine waters. Unfortunately, once you dive a little deeper into the Scottish farmed salmon industry its environmental credentials become a lot more murky.

The Scottish salmon farming industry uses hundreds of thousands of tonnes of wild-caught fish from across the globe every year to feed the salmon that ends up on our plates. In the process it dirties Scottish waters and damages local wildlife.

Farming fish requires feed: for the globally booming industry of farmed Atlantic salmon, this means feed containing wild-caught oceanic fish sourced from European, South American and West Africa waters, alongside other ingredients such as soya and vegetable oils. The Scottish industry has a large appetite for expansion – aiming to double in size by 2030.  This expansion would require a massive 310,000 tonnes of extra wild fish a year. For context, the current quantity of wild fish fed to farmed Scottish salmon, 460,000 tonnes, is roughly equivalent to the amount purchased by the entire UK population, and to fulfil growth ambitions this amount would need to increase by around two thirds.

So salmon is not so sustainable after all – but you wouldn’t know that looking at the packaging on supermarket shelves. You often wouldn’t even know it is farmed – with beautiful images of lochs and not a farming pen in site. Around 60% of the world’s salmon production is farmed, and in Scotland this figure reaches 100%, with the last commercial wild salmon fishery closing in late 2018. Marks & Spencer have gone one step further and created a fake loch ‘Lochmuir’ to market their farmed salmon. We think this is a load of bull and that’s why M&S have won our 2019 Total Bull award. Total Bull is the campaign to shine a light on the biggest bull on our supermarket shelves. We hold food companies to account for their misleading marketing and call on them to support sustainable practices before it is too late. Join us and write to M&S now!

What can you do next?

Follow us on Instagram to see our work in action.

Follow us