We have a problem with food. Or more to the point, bad food. You would find it difficult to find anybody outside of the food industry who would disagree with this.

The cost of bad food is enormous. It is estimated that within 10 years, 40% of the population will be obese. The NHS is currently struggling to cope with the scale of the problem and, by its own estimates, obesity is costing over £5 billion a year.

You know there are serious problems when, as a nation, it is estimated that we waste around £12.5billion worth of food each year yet, at the very same time, over 350,000 people are using food banks regularly.

When we think of issues around food security, we often think of other people in other parts of the world. Yet, according to the ‘Food and Agriculture Organization’, food security is a condition that “exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” In other words, do we all have access to fresh, affordable, healthy and sustainable food?

And the spectre of GM crops is never far away with food production becoming even more centralised, more corporate, less diverse and less locally resilient.

We have to take into account the social and spiritual cost associated with bad food and this is often harder to quantify. But the anxiety we often feel is very real indeed and we have reason to be concerned.

All of this can often feel overwhelming. The underlying issues of bad food are complex and inter-related, they require collective and collaborative action and market forces alone will not deliver the necessary scale or pace of change. And this is where we come in.
 
Food is the very heart of the Transition movement because food is at the very heart of everything we do. Food is the one issue where we can go outside of our back door and make a change. For many people, the growing of food represents the first time that they go from being a consumer to being a producer and the size of this change should never be under-estimated. It’s about creating an idea – a vision. What kind of future do we want? Every single person reading this has the power to change food culture and the way we think about food.

So what scale of change is possible? By 1945, it is estimated that 75% of Britain’s food was ‘home-grown’. People kept chickens, ‘Pig Clubs’ sprung up in most towns and villages and most vegetable weren’t rationed due to the amount of people growing them in allotments and back gardens. Resilience was built through food. It is absolutely fascinating to see how the nation coped with such a crisis.

We are very fortunate in New Mills in that we have whole host of fantastic spaces where good food is produced and promoted. We have two allotments, a community orchard, a local butcher, Pulse, Doc Greene’s, a local dairy, fantastic bakeries and so on and so on. Can we do more? Well, I think we can. And not only that, I think we should.

We have the knowledge, we have the passion, we have everything – all we need is the will to make a change and make a difference. And we should have modest aims – to help make New Mills a more resilient and more sustainable place to sow, grow, eat and live.
 
Transition New Mills have been approached by numerous people over the last few months who have said to us that they wish to start growing things themselves but don’t feel as though they have the time or the space or the knowhow.  So popular are the local allotments, that the Allotment Society has a huge waiting list. There is clearly a desire in New Mills to grow more than we are currently doing and this is how ‘Growing Spaces’ was born.
 
The aim of ‘Growing Spaces’ is to help people identify spaces where they can feel confident growing produce. This may be their back yard, window boxes, containers, it may be through a garden share scheme, it may be to help identify other land that may be usable.

We at Transition New Mills are very pleased that both the Allotment Society and New Mills Community Orchard have agreed to collaborate with us on this project. This means that support should always be there if needed, and we can reach wider within our community.
 
As you may have seen already, we are holding a public meeting on Thursday 28th November at the Library Theatre in New Mills starting at 7.30pm. Here, we can discuss the needs of the community and start to shape the project. We will also be sharing ideas on our blog and Facebook over the next week or so and will try and show a good range of potential ideas.

So, we need as many people as possible to engage with this project. And as many people as possible to attend the public meeting at 7:30pm, Thursday 28th November at the Library Lecture Room.

So let’s have a go at ‘Growing Spaces’ and see where we are after that.

Phil Frodsham.

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