Seb Mayfield’s Story
Seb Mayfield travelled to Canada in 2015 to spend time with emergency food aid providers.
At the time of his Fellowship, Seb, from Winchester in Hampshire, had spent a decade dedicating himself to increasing people’s access to healthy and sustainable food. As well as coordinating a London-wide campaign supporting community food growing, he also volunteers running a gardening club at his local primary school.
Having become increasingly aware of the rise in food bank use in the UK, Seb wanted to use his Fellowship to learn how emergency food aid providers in Canada have gone beyond basic food provision to reduce people’s food bills and dependency on the state and how this fits into the country’s wider discourse on household food security. He also hoped to gain a different perspective on the issue of household food insecurity from a country that has lived with food banks for a lot longer than the UK.
As Seb visited more organisations and spoke to more people, he was struck by the fact that organisations operating programmes that went beyond traditional food banks were quick to disassociate themselves from reducing household food insecurity. They knew that bringing people together to share a meal or providing the opportunity for people to grow or purchase healthy food at low cost had lots of benefits, but they were not going to directly impact on people being able to put enough food on the table in the long-term. Instead, there was clear consensus that in order to reduce food poverty, what everyone should be doing is to advocate for wider systemic change at both the provincial and national level.
Instead of returning home with the aim of sharing ideas on new types of programmes, Seb realised that what was missing in the UK was a way of bringing food aid providers together to enable more research, share best practice and act as a voice for change, supporting advocates calling for wider policy change to eradicate food poverty.
Seb set about developing the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) - an alternative, radical and progressive forum for grassroots groups that would represent hundreds of currently disparate food aid providers across the country.
IFAN is the first and only national network for independent food aid providers and envisions a UK where everyone can eat good food and food aid is no longer necessary. Now with a board of trustees and 50 founder members, IFAN will be launching fully in Spring/Summer 2017.
Read Seb's report here