Helen Woodcock's Story
As part of her drive to create a more sustainable food system in Manchester, Helen travelled to the Nyeleni Food Sovereignty conference in Austria, then on to Spain, where she visited a range of co-operatives, organic school food initiatives and communities.
On her travels Helen met and worked with a range of inspiring people. From the Welsh farmer who set up a CSA (community supported agriculture) on his farm and campaigned for a food system free from Genetically Modified crops, to the school caterer who has re-written school menus to incorporate 95% organic ingredients, and the founder of a 25 year-old bike courier co-operative. She also visited established communities focused on ecological sustainability and co-operative working, including Amayuelus and Sunseed.
Helen learnt an enormous amount on the trip. She witnessed interesting systems to facilitate co-operative working, and ideas for how to involve children and parents when incorporating new produce and dishes on a school menu. She learned about different methods of communication and conflict resolution, and about the risks for producers co-ops of putting all your eggs (or veg!) in one basket when supplying the public sector.
Four years on, the Fellowship has continued to have an impact on the work that Helen does both through The Kindling Trust (a social enterprise working to create a fairer and more sustainable food system for Greater Manchester), and Manchester Veg People (a pioneering co-op of local organic growers, restaurant and public sector buyers, and the co-op workers).
As Kindling begin to look for land for their large scale farm, and to plan the different elements of the initiative (the social enterprise hub, producers co-op, housing co-op and centre for social change), Helen finds that she draws often on the lessons she learnt from the communities she visited in Spain.
Recently Helen was at a meeting with the head of catering for a secondary school, planning how to incorporate organic local veg into their menus and how to involve the children in that process. The conversation about recipes quickly snowballed into plans for focus groups, tasting sessions, ‘meet the producers’ events and all sorts of ways of involving the 1250 young people at the school. Not to mention the visits that are already being planned to show other schools how easily they can develop a menu that is child, farmer and ecologically-friendly!