17 March 2017: How to address food insecurity: some of the challenges

A couple of new reports highlight the challenges of addressing food insecurity.

As gentrification accelerates in US cities, Brian Massey points out that attempts to increase food access through initiatives such as urban farms and gardens can actually have the adverse affect of pushing poor and low-income people out of neighbourhoods. Social media hypes up the initiative and, as Josh Singer of the Wangari Gardens project says,  “all of a sudden that garden is just full of people who recently moved to the neighborhood, who are all good people, but who aren’t really food insecure.”

 A new UK Food Research Collaboration report by Martin Caraher and Sinéad Furey also highlights the challenges of food insecurity. The authors say that increasing the distribution of food waste through food banks and the like can actually make food insecurity worse. They point out that although these initiatives feed the food-insecure in the short-term (which is becoming more and more essential), in the long-term, governments are able to ignore the root causes of poverty that lead to food insecurity in the first place and avoid their welfare responsibilities towards their citizens.


3 August 2015 – can markets help save our town centres?

A new book by Julian Dobson – How to save our town centres – includes discussion on how traditional markets, as long-established local hubs, are the key to a successful future for UK high streets.  Dobson has written an interesting article (with photographs) that explains some of his thinking in the Guardian.

This features examples such as Queen’s Market in East London and it’s struggles against development by Newham Council and private developers – backed by the local community and the Friends of Queen’s market campaign. Interviews with long-standing traders on Bury Market, Lancashire where he brings out the theatrical skills of the market traders and the tension with local supermarkets. The article also provides a brief summary of developments in the UK over the past 7 or 8 years and gives some examples of where local communities have tried to fight back, such as Brixton Village – where early success has been countered by a wave of gentrification and rent price hikes by the private market operators. He concludes by saying there is a need to re-think traditional markets but also build on ‘old’ ideas of  ‘local benefit and commercial activity’ if we are to ‘rehumanise the concept of exchange’ and bring our town centres back to life.

You can read the full article here

28 June 2015 – is London eating itself? the refurbishment of Brixton Arches

Today’s UK Observer has an article, written by Rowan Moore,  that looks at how London has become a city ruled by money, and asks the question –  is London losing the ‘soft tissue’ that sustains urban life?

Part of what Rowan Moore considers is how the things that make London special – the markets, pubs, high streets and communities – are becoming unrecognisable. The refurbishment of Brixton railway Arches in south-west London is a focus. Here, José Cardoso runs a Mediterranean delicatessen, taken over from his father in the 1990s, and he comments on how many of the businesses have been under these arches for 20,30 or 40 years. José Cardoso goes on to say how his shop serves everyone from the white middle class buying Parma ham and olives to ‘immigrants getting day-to-day stuff and green coffee’. Like others, he has been given notice to quit by Network Rail so that renovation can take place – this will take more than a year, with the offer of £7000 compensation, and no right to return.

What really brings the point home about the story is Cardoso saying he doesn’t know where he will go – but if they do manage to find new premises, the rent will be much higher. As he says,’ we would have to go upmarket. It would exclude a a whole section of our customers and force them to buy in the chain supermarkets.’ His own and his staffs’ livelihoods are  ‘a piece of the area’s social fabric’ – and at the moment what he sells is affordable for all – and cheaper than the supermarkets.

You can read more about how gentrification is affecting UK markets:  @trad_markets

You can read the full article here

21 May 2015 – London’s markets and the effects of gentrification

The UK Guardian has a section with readers’ stories about the threats and changes that are happening to London’s traditional markets as a result of gentrification, rising prices and private development. You can read the comments and see some photographs here