Now is the time for WECA to take on the future of food in the region.
The West of England mayoral elections, and the appointment of Dan Norris (Lab) as the first elected mayor for the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) overtly committed to biodiversity and local food, heralds a new era of opportunity and action to redefine the West of England region as a leader in resilient, nature and people-led food systems that will meet our multiple challenges head-on.
We are inviting the new WECA (West of England Combined Authority) mayor to collaborate on and resource a resilient new food economy. This Briefing for mayoral candidates called on the elected mayor to commit resources to creating a regional food body, bringing people together to progress transition to a just, connected, agroecological and resilient food system which is based on nourishing the ecosystems that nourish us, and working towards an end to nutritional poverty. We had positive responses and endorsement from all but the conservative candidate.
There are currently no references to food or farming in the Climate emergency strategy for the West of England, or the Statement of Common Ground which brings together the three local authorities (Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire) on matters of strategic planning. Historically, WECA has not taken a role in the future health and wellbeing of the area in this way. With this election, all this looks set to change.
Who feels like they belong to the West of England? Exactly. However, by relocalising our food production, distribution and processing, as citizens we can reconnect to our sense of place, to our landscape, and play an important role in bringing its ecosystems to life. This is a very promising, highly evidenced way to tackle climate change, food injustices, biodiversity decline, and open up a whole new jobs sector. Thousands of people involved in restoration of our food systems and landscapes, for the benefit of all, now that sounds like a plan.
No part of our economy matters more than food. It is vital for life, and for pleasure. It shapes our sense of family, community and nation…Intensive farming practises have caused serious damage to the environment and the food related disease is costing the NHS billions and drastically harming the lives of millions. Henry Dimbleby. Independent Lead, National Food Strategy (2020)