Our Ipswich Good Food Group 2020 AGM was held on 15 November 2020. Thank you to all attendees on the day! For those of you who were unable to attend, below is our President's Report on the year that was 2020.
2020, the year that no one expected. A year of extraordinary pressure on people as disasters and a pandemic continue to impact lives and the environment across the globe. I wanted to focus today on one of our principles, Community Resilience.
The year began in the midst of bushfires. In Queensland, most of the fires occurred from September to December 2019, including concern very close to home in Bundamba, as the truly awful Black Summer evolved into a disaster of unimagined horror in northern and southern NSW, the Victorian highlands and Western Australia. According to reports, “the fires burnt an estimated 18.6 million hectares ..destroyed over 5,900 buildings (including 2,779 homes) and killed at least 34 people. Nearly three billion terrestrial vertebrates alone – the vast majority being reptiles – were affected and some endangered species were believed to be driven to extinction.” (1)
And then of course came the Coronavirus Pandemic, from which for the most part Queensland has been spared to date. But we did see restrictions affecting daily life and travel and interactions with loved ones. The personal and mental health challenge has been enormous.
Both these issues highlight vulnerabilities in the food system, which is our core business as Ipswich Good Food Group.
The bushfires caused immediate challenges in supermarkets. The Resilience Shift reported back in February “food shortages and increased prices are further predicted as supply chains have been hit with suppliers struggling to transport food across the country, with crops destroyed by fire and routes shut down, compounding the existing pressure on growers and farmers from the hot and dry conditions and widespread drought” (2).
It may seem callous to talk of community resilience in the face of whole communities devastated, but it is a worthy subject. In Mallacoota, for example, outside help was absolutely necessary there were no reserves of food, fuel, water, medical supplies or communications at hand when the fires had passed. Supplies ran so low there were reports of a looming “humanitarian crisis”. (3)
Coronoavirus had a multiplying effect on all of this system breakdown, exposing vulnerabilities at the national level. I guess we have all learnt some lessons on personal, community and national preparedness and having some “redundancy”, that is some stores of essential items. And we all saw the crazy run on toilet paper!
In the UK an article April 2020 describes A Wake-Up call for Food System Resilience and focuses on five principles that I believe would be good to incorporate into our forward planning: Build more regional-supply networks, increase our cooking skills, improve our collective food awareness, develop more closed-loop or circular systems, safeguard food retail diversity. We have plenty to learn and act on (see below).
For us here at Ipswich Good Food Group we saw the benefit of localised food chains, rather than transporting food across the country. Having some bulk supply helped to get us all through delays in shipping (and I can proudly say we never ran out of toilet paper!) We supported the vulnerable by packing boxes to be collected or delivered by members. The networks that Food Connect have developed with local farmers meant continuing supply of fresh produce, even to the point of enabling growth in our membership as people were looking for healthy, local food options and wanting to stay away from crowded places.
Our decision to move to these premises just over a year ago has shown to be a great asset for Ipswich Good Food Group’s ability to meet the needs of our community. It is a factor in our own resilience and has enabled growth in difficult times. The wonderful opportunities to promote what we do through the local papers, Landline and Ipswich City Council’s Sustainability Initiative plus our own pamphlets hand-delivered around Ipswich by members have boosted membership. We have developed new relationships with producers and given opportunity for vendors to use our space, increasing accessibility for them and us of quality, local products. We certainly have not “arrived” but look forward with optimism to maximising the use of this space as a hub for local food, a resource and model for the community of Ipswich, and a promoter of positive change in the food system.
In closing I want to acknowledge that there have been drivers of Ipswich Good Food Group from our beginnings 8 years ago and one of those drivers is Sonja. After 7 years as our secretary, and another year on committee Sonja is stepping down for a well earned rest, and to focus on her other passions. In all truth she has kept IGFG afloat, literally, through the early precarious years and her time and dedication behind the scenes in administration and supplier relationships has been immeasurable. We hope she will still lend herself to be Brains Trust as she truly holds a wealth of experience and knowledge. Sonja, you have been and are much appreciated as we know this community of Ipswich Good Food Group would not exist without you.
Onwards and upwards in 2021. Wendy Johnston
A wake-up call for Food System Resilience (4)
(Think Ipswich for Bristol and West Moreton/SEQ for West of England)
Build more regional-supply networks. Bristol should buy more food produced in a climate and nature-friendly way from nearby regions (West of England being a good start). This means land needs to be allocated for food production and skilled food producers are required. If more of this was in place we would be less reliant on other countries – in particular for seasonal fruit and vegetables.
Increase our cooking skills. We all need to be capable of cooking a meal from scratch with simple, fresh, affordable ingredients. Having the confidence to do this is about our personal self-reliance. It’s much less stressful when we know how to adapt meals if there are shortages of certain ingredients. Less pre-prepared food means less wasted packaging and usually money saved too.
Improve our collective food awareness. We must find ways to help everyone in Bristol understand where our food comes from, recognise the part we play in the local food community, and realise our potential in contributing to the resilience of that community. Increasing understanding could shift our attitudes and therefore our habits. We can have a significant collective impact by taking positive action together in large numbers, each person playing a part.
Develop more closed-loop or circular systems. Ultimately this is about conserving resources, and money – designing out unnecessary pollution and waste and treating anything that remains as a resource, not waste. The impacts of this are countless: more free water for our gardens from rainwater harvesting; provision of compost and fertilisers derived from food by-products to urban farmers that in turn encourages the city to collect green and food waste; healthier and more nutritious food produced in natural systems that regenerate the environment; the Bristol Pound helping money to keep circulating in the local economy rather than be lost to external shareholders.
Safeguard food retail diversity. As we are seeing, there is an inherent risk in relying only on supermarkets. We need a wider range of options for where we can all buy nutritious food, including independent businesses, market traders, farm shops, home deliveries direct from farmers. Numerous smaller scale food producers need alternatives to supermarkets in order to get their products to us and thrive as businesses. Diversity brings mutual benefit.