Food and our Future


Two males working in foodbank


The Lunar Society, in association with Localise West Midlands, Birmingham Leadership Foundation, Midland Heart and the Nishkam Centre, is holding a panel discussion to stimulate debate on the importance of issues related to food to the future of the West Midlands region, its people and its businesses on Wednesday 14th May 2014 at 6.30 pm for 7.00 pm to 9.00 pm at the Nishkam Centre, 6 Soho Road.

The questions that will be addressed at the first event of this joint initiative are:

  • Why are we seeing a growth in the number of food banks and the numbers who depend on them across the West Midlands Region at at the same time as we face a growing obesity epidemic, much of it within our younger population?
  • What do we actually know about the extent of these issues and their causes?
  • What can we do locally to mitigate negative consequences and what local, national and international trends do we have to consider in the short, medium and long term?

The joint organisers said:

“Developments in the production, distribution and consumption of food will have profound consequences for our future lives. As well as the food poverty, access and health issues, which will be covered by this first event, they also impact on our environment, on climate change (and vice versa) and on our confidence that we know what we are eating.

“As citizens and in our work lives we need to develop our understanding of the international, national and local dynamics of food supply and demand, of the infrastructure of food production and distribution, and of our ability to acces food to enable healthy lifestyles. We need to debate the impact of these on our current and future lives, and agree what action is needed by whom to offset negative impacts and encourage positive ones. ”

Starting the discussion will be speakers Chris Mould, executive chairman of the foodbank charity, Trussell Trust, Adrian Phillips, Birmingham’s director of public health and Liz Dowler, professor of food and social policy at Warwick University and a trustee of the Food Ethics Council.

Kate Cooper, incoming chair of the Birmingham Food Council, will be chairing the event.

This event is free to attend, but places are limited and must be booked in advance via Eventbrite. A contribution on the evening to refreshments provided will be welcome.

You can follow the event on Twitter #foodfuture.



Birmingham Fair Money Campaign – Syndicate session 3 – Not-for-profit lenders working together to protect the vulnerable.


Delegates will hear from Angela Clements, Chief Executive of CitySave, how well the Birmingham Fair Money campaign is doing in its efforts to remove the money-lenders from the temple that is City of Birmingham.

Full details of this syndicate will be contained in the summit report which will be produced after the event.

Social inclusion summit: Working Together for a Fairer Birmingham – 11th Nov 2013


Today’s Social inclusion summit: Working Together for a Fairer Birmingham is being held at Austin Court, next to the old Birmingham and Fazeley Canal which still provides an exciting mode of transport for visitors to the City.

IMG_0073A fine rain has been falling all morning making David Hockney pool-scapes of the dark canal surface. Clearly, our hope that this would not deter the delegates from attending, has proven true,  for the Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham – who has been leading the Social Inclusion Process since its launch in March 2012 – is currently welcoming some of the 150 or so people who have braved the drizzle in order to attend.

These summits have proved to be a very successful method of community engagement, encouraging people from the whole social spectrum of Birmingham, representatives and practitioners from the Third Sector, Business leaders and workers, member of faith communities, Birmingham City Council staff, colleagues from the Police, and Fire services, indeed everyone who contributes to make Birmingham a truly great city.

The Bishop is remarking on the fact that we all come together, to be together and to spend 2 or 3 hours together to listen to each other and to learn from each other. he goes on to explain how he was attempting to explain to a group of sixth-formers what Social Inclusion is. Addressing the question: How do we make Birmingham an inclusive city? He suggests that there are three levels – first level is the policy level (both local and central Government) and as a Bishop he is invited to address committees in Parliament, then there is practical level which is the level that many people attending this summit engage at, and thirdly there is a pastoral level, which the Bishop explains is more personal and direct for example, helping in your local area and looking after your neighbour.

Summit: Working together and ‘Standing up for Birmingham’ campaign

“Working together” is the key theme of today’s summit being held at Austin Court and the programme will include contributions from successful local collaborative initiatives, including the Birmingham Fair Money Campaign, Alcoa Kitts Green’s community team, the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Research into Superdiversity and locally-based community organisations addressing loneliness and isolation.

Another aim of this Summit is to encourage delegates to get behind the ‘Standing up for Birmingham’ campaign.  

Birmingham City Council leader, Cllr Sir Albert Bore has announced details of a new campaign for Birmingham called ‘Standing up for Birmingham’. The campaign calls for community groups and individuals to play a bigger role in the delivery of services in the light of the Government cuts. Launching the campaign Sir Albert said:

“We must all ‘stand up’ and make our contribution to getting us through this crisis, and the strongest need to do their bit to protect the weakest from the impact of these cuts.

Over the next few years we will need to restate the role of the city council in a new landscape, with far less resources. But that doesn’t mean we give up on our aims, values and priorities for the city.”

I would think that this is something delegates attending the social inclusion process summit, which aims to encourage everyone across the city to work shape the future wellbeing of the people of Birmingham, would fully endorse.

Community Support Network – Birmingham

The Community Support Network is a group of over 40 large and small organisations from the Third Sector and multi-faith groups which was set up in late autumn 2012 in response to the potential plight of our fellow Birmingham citizens who are being affected by the changes brought about by the Welfare Reform Act and its implementation in combination with the aftermath of the recession (high unemployment and the rising cost of living).

The aim of the Network is to formulate a coordinated response to the provision of all forms of crisis support that may be required such as food banks, clothing banks, hardship funds, advice giving or any other crisis support including access to temporary/emergency accommodation.

You can use their search engine here to find your nearest food bank.

Brum Food Bank Directory is growing

FindFoodBanksBrum is a new fully interactive and FREE online listing service for food banks situated in Birmingham and the wider Black Country regions. It was launched in July 2013.

There are now over 80 providers registered on the website. The listings on the site include other related services such as food co-operatives, community gardening projects, free or subsidised clothing outlets, furniture and household goods services.


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With the use of built-in Google Map and Google Map Street View capabilities, search and locality features, the website will make it simple for those in need of these services to locate them easily.

FindFoodBanksBrum was established by Naphtali & Associates.

Connecting communities one shared meal at a time

Casserole poster

A scheme to support people to share food with neighbours in their community who can’t cook for themselves is one of the innovative projects in the New Local Government Network’s “pick of the year” featured in today’s Guardian.

The basic premise of the Casserole Club is that there are a lot of people cooking food and many others who would greatly appreciate a good, home cooked meal. Its goal is to connect the two, using a mix of online platform and offline engagement.

Like a local, community-led takeaway, Casserole members serve up home-cooked food to their neighbours, getting more people eating and cooking fresh meals while strengthening local neighbourhood relationships.

Casserole is a project by FutureGov, a social innovation and technology company that works with local government to develop better services for councils and their communities.

Casserole began in 2011 as a “serendipitous convergence of ideas” between its project lead, Murtz, who had been working on an MSc on community led social care and FutureGov, which was looking for concepts for a new type of Meals on Wheels.

It’s currently being developed with the support of Reigate & Banstead Council and Surrey County Council but is looking for new areas to expand into.

As it says in the Guardian article, it seems like a “beautifully simple and brilliant idea”, although no doubt there are various health and safety issues that need to be considered.

Could we develop a project here in Birmingham to help local communities tackle social isolation through shared food? I’d like to think so.

Next Steps

Thanking Cllr Cotton for his response the Bishop then asked Jackie Mould to outline the next steps in the process.

Jackie reflected that the main work now was how to turn all the ideas that had emerged both from the Green Paper and the discussions today into action. Many many people have been involved and she echoed the Bishops call to keep this vital partnership of collaboration alive.

The next step is to turn the Green Paper into a White Paper and develop from it an Action Plan to enable us to implement its recommendations and take this work forward. After it is produced the Bishop will engage in a formal process with all our Partners to get their sign-up and commitment to engagement with it in order to bring about its recommendations.

Jackie said she was keen to keep this  network going, and we will be contacting you soon to enlist your help, support and ideas on ways to take this further.

We will be holding a further Summit in the new year to feedback where we are and get more input from you.

As Cllr Cotton mentioned we will be creating a new Challenge unit. If anyone wants to help or support us, with ideas, people, resources, even challenge, please get in touch.

Many of the processes will continue the Blog fairbrum will still be going, as will our presence on twitter. So please remember: your views count! Continue to engage with us on the journey by contributing to the conversation on twitter by using the #fairbrum tag and following us @fairbrum.

Please stick with us and make sure you continue to work with us, as we journey on to make this Social Inclusion Process happen for Birmingham.

Responding to the social inclusion challenge

Councillor Cotton said that after every summit he’d been at he always felt very enthusiastic and stimulated. He wanted to express his thanks to Jackie and her team for making it happen.

He then went on to explain that we know the scale and challenge across Birmingham. We know that a third of our children grow up in poverty. The level of deprivation has remained  the same for decades. We never seem to be able to address it adequately and the current public spending cuts are certainly not helping. Up to forty eight percent of the Birmingham City Council current budget is set to go. As the Leader of the Council, Cllr Bore said recently, this is the end of local Government as we know it.

Cllr Cotton then alluded to the leviathan of Welfare reform that is trundling towards us. It will impact most on those who are already deprived. The poor will continue to suffer. The cuts will not just affect services they will also threaten existing social capital too.

However, we should not be overawed by these challenges. We are more than capable of facing up to them. The Green paper shows no shortage of vision and ideas it indicates a real passion for change. We are not going to sit back and do nothing.  The Green Paper is a call to arms for the city.

Through the creation of the Green Paper the Bishop has managed to pull together a coalition for change: composed of businesses, third sector organisations, universities, religious, community and faith groups and individuals. The challenge now is how we keep the partnerships made here, through this endeavor, together? Hope can we can take the change forward under Bishops Leadership?

There are lots of ideas and solutions across city. A new approach to Neighbourhoods is already being rolled out, here we are endeavoring to provide the right area approach with Local services responding to local needs.  The Youth Unemployment Commission is already working on developing a Birmingham Jobs Fund approach. The Welfare Reform action committee is now in place and should be able to help create a shield to protect some of the people at risk. But he did fear that that the shield may well be dented in the effort.

So we can see that several of the proposals in the Green Paper are already beginning to emerge.

The new administration is keen to develop not just a Birmingham City Council strategy to deal with the needs of city but one that includes and embraces all our partners all working together towards a common goal.

To do this they are creating a Social Cohesion Challenge Unit to take this agenda forward. This unit will be able to challenge social cohesion not just across the Council but hopefully across partnerships too. It will champion good practice and build  and sustain strong  partnerships.  The Council needs its partners to work with us, we can’t do it alone.

So, we are beginning to put things in place to enable us to set off on this journey. The Green Paper is our route map. We know the journey will not be easy, but we also know that we have the ability to make Birmingham a better place for every citizen. So lets get on with it!

Action Groups – emerging ideas

The eight groups are proving very industrious, and flip chart paper is filling up with comments and ideas.

This is group 1.1 examining how to help socially excluded families. Discussions around ‘helicopter’ parents took place and the need to provide tailored flexible support for those struggling to cope.

Another comment notes that talent spotting is not always about education and qualifications.

Another group have examined what success looks like and have come up with notions such as people being able to try out different skills and that businesses are able to fill all their vacancies from young people.

But the discussion is not only taking place on flip charts and on paper

others are making using of more modern materials. Tweeting live the comments and suggestions that are being made to a world-wide audience.

Some have found the flip chart board too confining and spilled over on to the floor to capture their inspiration.




Coffee has been drunk, fuelling the synapses again and a further round of ideas has filled the air. Time has been against us yet again and people are being asked to reassemble in the main auditorium ready to feedback their findings in the feedback closing plenary session.