Thinking Edibly: Food Discussions *Update*

Thinking Edibly 

Sept 2016 – November 2016

Dedicated webpages: http://thinkingedibly.surge.sh

 

In September 2016, we convened people interested in food – good food, food cultures, and local food production for a series of conversations about what matters if we were to think about food issues, in Singapore. We drew inspiration from the steady efforts of hours and years of participatory food discussions by friends in Canada (Food Secure Canada, People’s Food Policy discussions), and Australia (Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, The People’s Food Plan). More on their efforts, which actively continue today, are found in the resources section below.

These beginning discussions in Singapore arose from watching food go undiscussed beyond its value to the tastebuds. Food is loved in Singapore, but its cheap abundance in hawker centres, subsidized costs in supermarkets, and plethora of images of good looking food on Instagram make it easy to take the availability of food for granted. Food justice and food insecurity, in Singapore, and beyond, go undiscussed. Yet Singapore, which imports over 90% of its food, and hosts businesses that are implicated in mobilizing vast amounts of investment in agricultural land conversion and land grabs (which comes under an umbrella term, “land acquisition”), plays a significant economic and cultural role in changing the agricultural landscape in Southeast Asia, and beyond. (Palm oil is a case in point.)

We wish to find ways for people to find alternatives to the unequal and un-ecological practices dominant in the food and agricultural industry today. Thinking Edibly means to start thinking about our role in this large entrenched system, and our identities as “consumers”.

Session 3: Local Food Production

Local food; food that is unique to a community and reflects its geography and culture of its people. It has to be created through ingredients that are grown only as far as where the locals tread, and the entire production process should begin and end within this geographical space.

A huge turnout – ~35 people, some came unexpected to think with us about Local Food Production. A group of young chefs included!

Session 2: Local Recipes, Local Tastes: Casting Glamour

Gatherings can occur today as a way of re-creating what is past, helping memory find a footing in the present, to re-charge the strength of memory. Yet there are push and pull factors that make it challenging for us to experience these good food memories again: we have so much choice (accessibility and abundance of fast food) today, and a disproportionately smaller amount of resources, people, space, knowledge and language dedicated to slow food.

Session 2: What’s Indah? Glamour and culture in food (culture).
Deeelicious homemade kuehs prepared by Mother and daughter Fifi. They sell these too under their brand, Indah (@indah_desserts, on Instagram).

Session 1: Food for all: Health and Society

What makes up your world? What comes to mind when we think of healthy food? What do we consider healthy, what signs help us know what’s healthy? What barriers stop us and the people we are most in touch with (our customers, clients, patients, volunteers, co-workers) from having these foods?

Session 1: Food and Society looked at what we count as ‘value’ in food. What is good food, that is good for the body, mind, and spirit? Lots of talk about certification, organics, but also body image disorders, and our relationship with food here.
Busy working our notes from session 1~

We are busy now preparing a brief, shareable report on what we’ve found in these discussions, that will be useful for sharing and finding directions forward amongst more groups working on better food futures. Keep checking back!

For now, here is a glimpse of what’s to come!

Thinking Edibly Learnings: 8 things that could happen when we grow our own food.

 

Resources

People’s Food Policy, by Food Secure Canada:

  • Resetting the Table (2011): the result of a long series of food discussions with hundreds of volunteers and thousands of hours.
  • Resetting the Table held a conference in August 2017, with 6 streams to look at the food policy landscape in Canada: discussion papers, policy maps and summary policy tables are available here.

The People’s Food Plan, by the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance:

  • A little about them here
  • Their Food Plan discussion draft (2012) available as a PDF download here.

Food Waste Solutions Discussion 1

Food Waste Solutions Discussion 1
23 Sept 2017

Time to get movin’!

A first attempt for food-related practitioners (foodscapers, urban farmers, freegans, chefs, etc.) to brainstorm productive next steps to counter the wicked problem of food waste in Singapore, and create actionable next steps for ourselves to work on or gather teams to work on.

Notes on our process, rationale, and outcomes are laid out here.

Outcomes:

Our next steps are to refine the framework of efforts. These efforts should:

  1. Consider a Food Waste Web of Actors (that Foodscape can keep track of/host discussions for).
  2. Utilise Public Education sessions such as Feeding the 5K (hosted by Gone Adventurin’), to do a few things:
    1. increase consumer awareness, which includes working closely with organizations (Note: since in SG the govt is so linked to all parts of public life, this includes working with govt bodies) – NEA, SWCDC, student groups,  schools, fruit&veg sellers.
    2. targeting changes in tradition in biz and amongst consumers (working with B2B solutions to change consumer habits).
    3. urban farming – ? Not clear.
    4. channel public attention to push “enabling legislation” for food waste reduction and recycling.  (also see point 5)
    5. involve an element of data collection, that can support the development of such legislation. Data can be made useful to the gradual development of legislation e.g. working with govt stakeholders to pilot data collection that can inform more grounded (valid) legislation.
    6. Food waste solutions must support distributors in cutting cost.
    7. education especially environmental education, which must include new narratives for food waste solutions – 3R that is grounded in existing issues.

Internet of Microbes: Krautsourcing Food Sharing Ideas

100 questions about food
part of
Internet of Microbes: Krautsourcing Food Sharing Ideas
HackerspaceSG
with Marketa Dolejsova and Monika Iwonka
29 July 2017

Our Food Sharing Map, made at the end of the session – check it out editable map

More on the session has been written about by Monika on Sharecities, now away in Switzerland for her next phase of fieldwork~ 

Nutritional food deserts, community gardens, public fruit spaces. I’m interested in identifying the way food circulates through the city, its bottlenecks and areas where surplus gathers. Everyone has some experience of seeing food wasted, or where there’s too little of it. Sets up a basis for conceptualizing the infrastructure of the food system, addressing, and a beginning set of questions. We think about a few examples to get things going – e.g. gardens, supermarket opening and closing times, parks, squares.

Focus: built infrastructure and digital infrastructure.

Intern Features: Han Jing on “Doing” Change in Food

“On the night of 10 Nov 2016, something stirred in me.

I’d had a relatively poor day, I do not recall what happened exactly, but I knew I wanted change. More importantly I didn’t want to just sit around and wait for change, I wanted to create change. To actively create change to the world and solve any of its problems. I just didn’t quite know how to do it. At least on a level that extends beyond myself.

So I decided then and there, lying in bed, that I will be an active seeker and “do-er” of change.

 

Pardon my rudeness, I realised I have not introduced myself.

 

Hello, I’m Han Jing. How are you?

I’m 21 this year, and am majoring in Sociology (NTU), a second year student, if you’re curious.

 

How did I get from 10 November to writing this, three months on?

 

I woke up bright eyed bushy tailed the next morning and made my way down to The Eco Film Festival at the Singapore Art-science Museum. I got myself a vegan, gluten free banana loaf from The Fab Cafe (it was really really good!) and went upstairs to join one of the morning film screenings; Growing Roots and Minimalism.

(Side note, both of these are really really good, do go and watch them!)

Anyway, what happened post-screening is the important part. There was a panel discussion and Hui Ying from Foodscape Collective (ah-ha, see where I’m going now?) was hosting the discussion. Something sparked in me as I sat in the audience, I really wanted to be a part of a team to see how we could shape things together, make positive influences, CHANGE THE WORLD!!!

Yes, I was a very excited human being.

When the discussion ended, I mustered every bit of courage I had to approach Hui Ying and asked rather sheepishly, if Foodscape Collective would like to have me as an intern. She said yes(!!) and invited me to talk over tea.

I hope this makes sense to you now. I was originally asked to maybe write a bit about my experience at Foodscape, but I realised that perhaps it would be more interesting to know how I came about joining it and to give my two cents on what I think about food, where food originates and well, any knick knacks that comes to my mind.

 

I used to think that I have black fingers, but after four dead plants, I have managed to grow two varieties of basil, pandan, chilli (which is having an issue with whiteflies but I digress), cilantro and one tiny little lettuce seedling! All of which are lined up along the corridor of a HDB apartment. I think black fingers can turn green with a bit (or a lot) of patience and TLC (tender loving care).

Much of my interest for edible greens actually stems from my childhood where I often frolicked in my Popo‘s (grandma’s) garden. She has this amazing small plot of land that can grow just about anything. Every evening, I would help her to water her crops using ‘rice water’ and squat around the plants to inspect for any munching caterpillars. I basically grew up with dirt in my nails and sun-kissed skin.

I am a blessed child, and got to learn about the food system (where our food comes from and where it goes to) from a very young age. My family educated me thoroughly about where various foods came from and educated me about taboo topics such as factory farming. It was also complementary then, that I got to experience food from soil to table at my Popo‘s place.

I believe such education about food is essential to cultivate interest and create conscious consumers. I have ploughed through my mind over this and figured that it is only beneficial for children to learn about these topics. The bare minimum would be to have at least a basic understanding that food does not appear out of thin air nor are vegetables and meats grown and manufactured in supermarkets. Children and adults of today, need to see beyond this fragmented relationship and realise that food comes from the soil and would return to the soil again (be it leftovers or in hehe, poop form).

It is a real problem, and a relatively new one only because we are the generation whose relationship with food is growing wider and wider. We are the generation with higher standards of living and we get food gratification simply by placing an order and paying dollar bills for it.

 

One Mc Veggie Burger please.

That would be four dollars.

Volia! Here’s your food sir/madam.

 

Our food has gone fast. And our relationship with food will soon be gone fast, as well.

We seek instant gratification, and while doing so, have forgotten that food is an art—a slow art that our ancestors committed to for survival.

We have broken up the process of artwork and grown to focus only on the end results, only on what shows up on our plates. While buying pottery, we only remember the person who curated the vase and sold it to us in cents and dollars but forget who shaped the mud into these concrete pieces.

We have forgotten a lot.

 

The point of this writing and what drove me to intern at foodscape, would then be this; to instill greater awareness in people of both the beauty of the food cycle, and the things less beautiful; to drive them to think beyond what lies on our white porcelain plates.

 

I could go on and on about this but I should stop soon. Before I go though, here’s a last bit of my thoughts written on virtual ink from me to you.

If my writing has sparked any interest in you to learn more about the food system (we call it Foodscape), please bring yourself to attend talks and film screenings. There is a calendar of wholesome activities for you on this site. You will learn a lot, I promise this much to you.

Okay I promise this is the last bit. I don’t think this is much of a poem than rhyming words but I hope you dwell on the words rather than regard it as art.

We are eating more, but we are not eating well.

We are eating fast, but we are moving slow.

We are eating, or are we really?

Workshop: Food-Art-Sustainability (Ideas Fest, NTU CCA)

In late 2016 we were invited to take part in the NTU CCA’s Ideas Fest, where we worked out what turned out to be a good fit – the facilitated ‘ideas-marathon’ we’d been wanting to have, with the food experience of a lifetime – with 449 other guests at a dinner curated by Lucy Orta of Studio Orta. In a workshop bringing together 14 resource persons and many more participants, Lucy and us elicited a list of provocations for a night of conversations.

Continue reading “Workshop: Food-Art-Sustainability (Ideas Fest, NTU CCA)”