TiR is Hungry for Activism

0CommentsFebruary 25th, 2010

TiR were invited to run a food waste workshop at Hungry for Activism, which was a public food policy event taking place in Leeds Civic Hall on the 20th February.

The day started with an early rise and some last minute amendments of the very first TiR power point presentation, some carefully selected outfits and a healthy dose of porridge. Arriving at Leeds civic hall was a pleasant affair, a large ice rink stood in front of an even bigger building, that stood authoritatively and with a light grandiose.

When we entered the building, we were shown the TiR workshop / presentation room; the central council chamber. The room was a large oblong set out in a oval seating arrangement with a huge tapestry set behind the main desk, mahogany seats encircled the main floor and balcony viewing platforms sat at each end of the room. It felt very official and archaically political, which of course it was. Voting ballot boxes were set in discreet draws in front of every seat, likewise, every seat had its own microphone. I was reminded of images from Copenhagen conferences, which was more intimidating than exciting, but the setting really emphasized the very political nature of food waste, production and availability.

The workshop began with Kate introducing the history of TiR and how we came to exist; local bin diving leading onto wholesale skip salvaging, and public food waste feasting @ Feeding 5000. We went onto present the political principles that anchor TiR as a policy based anti food waste campaign. Realigning the public focus from individual food waste to industry food waste, proposing the introduction of an independent annual food waste audits, and implementing subsequent annual food waste reduction targets. I then went onto deliver a food waste fact presentation, that was actually a bit long, and will now be cut down to a more bite size format.

The Chuck out chain food waste game followed, with most audience members getting to their feet to become a human component of the food supply chain of a carrot and a potato. The aim of the game was for team members to organise themselves into the correct supply chain order for both carrots and potatoes, and then throw away the right quantities of food waste at every level of the supply chain. Players were randomly given cards with the supply chain part on them and a percentage of food waste. For example, Farm Surplus food supply chain part had to throw away 20% of carrots received, both bits of information was contained on the cards given to players. Once players got themselves in order, the supply chain was handed 100 units of carrots or potatoes, and at every stage the players had to throw away the right amount of food stuff, illustrating where food is wasted in the supply chain. After test playing with the public, the game would be better applied in the future as a role playing audience participation exercise, using audience members to embody parts of the supply chain rather than having the whole audience come and play the game. More role playing and dressing up elements could be incorporated, so the farmer gets to wear wellies and a farmers cap, a barley stalk in their mouth etc, and the processor gets to wear a hairnet and blue gloves etc. The game cards needed to be bigger to allow the more non-verbal players to hold up their supply chain cards and demonstrate to their food production team what part of the supply chain they were.

The game was followed by an open discussion which turned into more of a Q&A session. This was a style of dialogue between the ‘panel” and the audience that I’d be keen to avoid in the future. This is because it can lock the audience into a position of learner rather than equal participants and contributors. TiR is eager to facilitate democratic and equal dialogue among ourselves and audience. Sitting in a circle and setting up smaller discussion groups would be a better format to deliver at our next public workshop.

All in all, the event was a success, but it’s fair to say that it also functioned as a huge learning curve. It was the first public workshop / speaking event that those of us speaking had ever done, and we learnt valuable lessons. We did get lots of positive feedback (and a few constructive criticisms) and almost all members of the audience independently signed up to our mailing list, which we took as a sign of interest and validation of the relevance and usefulness of our first public presentation.

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