On the 17th of January, Walsall hosted its first ever food summit. Working with Walsall Public Health, Food for Life facilitated a day of connection and collaboration to think innovatively to strengthen the local food system.
Over 60 people from 30 organisations were at the event to represent voices from across the food system, with local allotment users, caterers, housing associations, college staff, local authority teams, suppliers and food bank workers all in attendance.
The first session of the day was about Sustainable Food Places, a network of food partnerships in towns, cities, boroughs, districts and counties across the UK. Andrea Gibbons, Sustainable Food Network Coordinator, explained what a Sustainable Food Place is, its benefits and why it could work well for Walsall. This was followed by a presentation from Dr Lynne Goodacre on the Blackburn with Darwen Food Alliance and the challenges they overcame to become a Sustainable Food Place in 2023.
The morning also saw Walsall Public Health sharing key priorities from the Walsall Food Plan, which included making healthy choices accessible, implementing food buying standards for commission services, restricting the sale of high fat, salt and sugar foods within Walsall Council properties, and prioritising local sourcing and access to good food.
Lunchtime, with a menu designed by the chef at Bescot Stadium, was a feast of locally sourced food, including sausages from Leamore, fruit and vegetables from Essington, and chicken from Worcestershire – all from within a 40m radius of Walsall!
In the afternoon, attendees workshopped ideas on making Walsall’s food system more sustainable and accessible to all. One idea was to split large allotment plots into smaller, more manageable areas so more people have access to growing spaces. Walsall Council’s Healthy Spaces team shared that this is already happening, but working together to push the initiative forward and increase accessibility will mean more people can benefit.
Following the food summit, Food for Life are reviewing and analysing suggestions and ideas generated during the event and putting together a list of key actions to make the Walsall Food Partnership a reality.