Food systems transformation and poverty – a powerful reminder

AFN+ Network talk with Dominic Watters

This AFN Network+ talk with campaigner Dominic Watters on food insecurity is an essential watch if you’re interested in food systems transformation. It is deeply moving.

Dominic speaks candidly about his own experience as a single parent living in poverty, with food and fuel insecurity. He urges us not to include the voices of those in poverty in an ad-hoc fashion, sending them back home when we feel we’ve ticked that box, but to build sustained and sustainable relationships that value voices of that living experience.

He emphasises the difference between lived and living experience; he is living it every day.

There’s also a reminder of our interconnectedness and to avoid the othering inherent in using expressions like “our world” and “your world”.

I grew up the son of a single parent who worked hard to feed me well with scant resources. I have a little insight into the experience Dominic describes – but only a little. The situation for him and others like him is very different now, and more difficult.

The food systems transformation we need doesn’t work unless it works for everyone, yet at times talk of sustainable food has made it sound a little like an aspirational lifestyle choice. The price for much of this food and the casual assertion that we all need to pay more for our food suggests as much. Dominic and many in a similar situation to him live in food ‘deserts’ where the only shop within a reasonable distance sells expensive, poor-quality, often ultra-processed food and nothing fresh. The cost of cooking food is a factor.

Food, the quality, availability and price of it, how it is prepared, is so intrinsically linked with poverty. Food poverty doesn’t exist. It’s just poverty. But food, the way we produce, buy, prepare, share and eat it is also so central to what it means to live well, healthily and happily. Yet again for me, and seen through the lens of Dominic’s experience, the way we eat is at the centre of so many of the issues we need to fix in our world and why genuine, equitable, sustainable transformation of our food system is probably the most powerful thing we can focus on.

Read the AFN+ Network briefing on this webinar (pdf)