On Monday 10 March 2014, Belfast Healthy Cities hosted the Creating Healthy Communities: Sustainable Food seminar, welcoming speakers from Northern Ireland, the UK and the World Health Organization (WHO) Europe Healthy Cities of Cork and Rotterdam.
The event was chaired by Nigel McMahon, Chief Environmental Health Officer, Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.
Access to sustainable, locally produced food can bring a range of benefits to the health of the city. The opportunity to ‘grow your own’ increases the variety of healthy eating options available, particularly to those on low incomes, delivering obvious health benefits. Additionally, local food production contributes to urban regeneration and social cohesion.
Engaging a community in production can produce a collective awareness of food poverty and the necessity of addressing the economic and environmental impacts of waste. Examples of this process were provided by Veronica Barry and Angela Blair from Sandwell, West Midlands which has pioneered an approach linking food and economic regeneration. Cees Bronsveld from the City of Rotterdam shared an overview of creative approaches to introducing food production to the city through urban agriculture.
Participants in the seminar also heard about the importance of strategic support for local action from Dr Colin Sage, University College Cork, who spoke about creating a citywide food policy for Cork, which is also a WHO Europe Healthy City. A case study focusing on the Belfast City Council Growing Communities Strategy reported on developments on a local level.
Other case studies presented included the Belfast Sustainable Food City vision and action plan from Sustainable NI; Love Food, Hate Waste from WRAP and Community Food Initiatives from Healthy Food for All