What’s Going On?

Have you got a food-related event planned for the near (or not-so-near) future?  Why not add it to our events calendar?

It’s really simple.  Just log in (the username and password are both “guest”), then select “Events” and “Add new” from the menu on the left.  You can add links to a website, a Google map, all sorts.

And if you come across an event advertised elsewhere, on a flyer or on Facebook, for example, feel free to add it to our calendar.

You can even write your own articles here too.  Simply log in and select “Posts”, then “Add new”.  There’s no need to bother with things like tags or categories and such like – we can sort all that out later.

Flyer

Many thanks are due to Saul for producing this excellent flyer.  Sums up what we are about pretty neatly, I think.

flyer

Agenda Suggestions

Here are some suggestions (thanks, Graham!) for agenda items for tomorrow’s meeting.  Nothing is finalised, so feel free to add, remove or mess around with anything here at the drop of a hat.
– Introductions
– Open discussion on what the network could be
– Food distribution network
– Potential events, actions
– Hunger Resistance Network
– Mapping groups
– Twitter, Facebook, Website, logo
– Share events for the calendar

A Grand Day Out

I’ve just come home from my first visit to the HASL/LCAPSV Lunch Club, just around the corner from Elephant and Castle.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I think it’s fair to say that a tremendous time was had by everyone who turned up.

There seemed to be quite a mixture of people there, with a range of interests from across London.  The atmosphere was incredibly friendly and relaxed, and the idea of a group of reasonably like-minded people meeting up to get to know each other over a table crammed with really good food worked amazingly well.  It was great for us all to be able to spend time together and learn a bit about what we are all up to without the pressure of having to organise the next demo, bring down the government or whatever.

There was a slight comedy interlude when the chocolate fountain was turned on – more of a shower than a fountain.  It’s never done that before, apparently :-)

As we were leaving, a passing cyclist stopped, attracted by the name of the venue (Bike Curious) and hoping to find somewhere he could fix his bike.  Although it obviously wasn’t the place he was looking for, we did give him the address of somewhere nearby that he could take his bike, and sent him on his way with a rather nice loaf of bread.  I say “rather nice” because I was fortunate enough to get one myself too, and it is delicious.

I must admit my expectations in getting the Radical Food Network started were really quite vague.  I kind of imagined that if a load of people with a common interest in food came together and did community things, then all kinds of good stuff would come of it.  Beyond that, I didn’t have too clear an idea of where  it might go.  But this is definitely the sort of thing I’d like to see happening more often.

The people who organised this had clearly gone to a lot of effort in setting it all up, and I for one would like to thank everyone involved for making it happen.

Origins of the RFN

There is perhaps some confusion about the relationship between the Radical Food Network and the Radical Assembly.  These two groups were starting to form around the same time, and it is perhaps not surprising that a lack of clarity might arise.  So I’ve decided to write this to explain my understanding of how things started, and perhaps shed some light on how they may or may not interact in the future.

The idea for the network sprang out of discussions between Graham Jones and myself in the days following the general election.   Graham was one of the people organising the first Radical Assembly.  The discussions can be seen both on this site and on Graham’s blog, along with various conversations on Twitter.  We arranged to meet up at the first Radical Assembly meeting, where Graham was going to introduce me to someone from Streets Kitchen.

As it turned out, I was not at all happy with the way the assembly was managed by the organisers and left in disgust before the end. As luck would have it, I bumped into Graham outside.  So we did the things we needed to do, and I left.  I didn’t see that as being anything to do with the Radical Assembly, and since then I have had no involvement with them and very probably won’t in the future.

The reason I won’t be involved is only partly because of the shortcomings of  the first assembly.  I have heard that they have been addressed now, and maybe they have.  The main reason, though, is that they are organised differently, in a way that I don’t think benefits the Radical Food Network.

The idea behind the RFN is that there is already a number of groups that are involved in similar activities that overlap and could very easily support each other, and could expand the scope of their activities by joining together.  This is the way the Radical Housing Network has worked, and it has done so very successfully.  The Radical Assembly, on the other hand seems to have taken a large group of individuals and formed them into local groups.  Although there is some value in that, groups based purely on a geographical link don’t build upon a shared interest between members.

Times change, and the ways that the various activist groups interact  will likely change as they grow,  so my opinion on this may well change over time.   I’ve no time for people who want to be leaders but, apart from that, I’m more than happy to work with anyone who can work with me.

These are just my opinions – others  are available…

Tony Smetham

First Meeting

The Radical Food Network had its first meeting last Sunday, at LARC in Whitechapel, courtesy of Food Not Bombs, who kindly allowed us to gatecrash their free-food-giving-out event in Altab Ali Park.

It was fascinating to see the reactions of passers-by to the offer of free food.  A combination of an instinctive (and typically British) polite refusal with a kind of horror that a mad person had just said something completely deranged to them.  Perhaps one of the more important things that giving out free food achieves is not simply the saving of food that would otherwise have gone to waste but challenging the almost universal assumption that we all have to fight each other for everything we get.  If some of the people who saw us left with at least the germ of a realisation that  co-operation is not only possible but actually happening, that may be much more valuable than the food itself.

The meeting itself confirmed what I think we suspected beforehand, and what motivated us to start the network.  It seemed that all the people there had met people from other groups involved with food, and had started to see possibilities for working together to achieve something more.  And yet somehow there was no organised group set up to make those things happen.  There was a real sense of optimism that many of the building blocks are already in place and that all we need to do is bring some of these groups together for them to start spontaneously working together to create a more powerful grassroots movement that can give us more control of the food we eat.

With that in mind, we decided to organise another meeting on Sunday 14th June.  If you are involved with a group concerned with food, whether that is growing food, reducing waste,bulk buying or whatever, do feel free to come along.  Or if you think this is something you’d like to be involved with, you’ll be more than welcome.  Full details are on our events page.

Brainstorming

I don’t know what such a thing might become but I can come up with a few rough ideas off the top of my head.

Healthy food, locally produced and fairly traded.  Reasonably-priced food.  Cruelty-free food.  Educating people about food issues.  Addressing the ludicrous amounts of food wasted by supermarkets.  Encouraging people/communities to grow their own food.  Community events, using food as a way to bring communities together.  Catering at outside events, both for fundraising and spreading the word about campaigns.

Many of these are of necessity more commercial than the kind of things the RHN is typically involved in.  That probably means it will need to start small and expand its ambitions as its capacity grows.  For example, local bulk buying groups are comparatively easy to set up and there could be many benefits from bringing these groups together in a loose network.

(Feel free to add your own ideas, expand on these, etc…)

Video

Tent cities housing migrant workers in Spain

This video shows the conditions that many migrant workers in Spain have to endure so that we can have vegetables that are cheap and fresh even when they are out of season.

We get the food we pay for. If that is what we decide we want from our food, then it is readily available in every supermarket and on the market stalls. But maybe price isn’t the only consideration. We might not see the suffering we inflict on people in another part of the world simply by choosing the food that is most readily available, but it is no less real for being easily hidden from view.

Welcome

Welcome to what I hope could be the birth of a new organisation exploring how people might be able to work together to provide one of life’s most basic necessities.

I’m basing this on the Radical Housing Network, a non-hierarchical organisation of groups sharing a common interest in providing and protecting housing for the benefit of the community. There is an excellent article here explaining the way the RHN is organised and how that helps it to be so successful.

Why might we want to create a radical food network?   Ultimately, by taking control of how our food is produced, distributed and sold, we can ensure that food is something that benefits the community.  We can take control away from the corporate interests that currently treat food purely as a source of profit and make sure that we get the food we need, not the toxic, exploitative rubbish we are being sold at the moment.

That may be a distant goal at the moment but there is nothing to stop us taking steps in that direction straight away.  There are probably many people who are doing some of this already.  All that’s needed is for some of those groups to start coming together and working towards their common goals in pretty much the way the Radical Housing Network is already doing.

I’ll add more content when I can. In the meantime, feel free to comment on here, or to add new content by logging in as “guest”, with the same password.