Rethinking food in Wales: reconnecting through values

The National Assembly for Wales (that is, our politicians, as distinct from the civil servants in Welsh Government) has recently announced a new consultation called ‘rethinking food in Wales’. Its scope is very broad: they want to know what we can do to ‘enhance the food and drink sector and our relationship with the food we eat’. What is our vision, and how can we get there? They suggest that we might like to see a healthy local food culture, a thriving food industry, food produced to high environmental and animal welfare standards and an international destination for food lovers, but they invite other ideas too.

Our Food Manifesto and proposed Food Network Wales have exactly this aim of rethinking food in Wales, so this is a great opportunity to work with the Assembly and get everyone’s voices heard. We invite all our readers not only to respond to the consultation but to reference the Food Manifesto and send us a summary of their key points so that we can publish them here and share our thinking. To start us off, here is the response from the Food Values team.


The Food Values project ran a series of events and seminars in 2015 and 2016 to explore how an approach based on values, as put forward by Common Cause, could help people understand and shape the food system. This starts from the premise that people are not rational actors and we need to consider the role of people’s beliefs, identity and emotions if we are truly going to change our food system. As part of the project we launched a Food Manifesto for Wales which is an ongoing project from which a new Food Network Wales is emerging. We are no longer funded, but we continue to work together informally to develop the approach.

Our vision for the food system in Wales

Our work, summarized in our 2015 report Food Values, showed how people respond to food as an important means through which to connect to each other in our families and communities. Our project worked with diverse groups, including refugees seeking asylum and isolated older people in rural areas. Food was seen to offer a focal point to come together and look beyond difference. We all eat and thus food has enormous potential as a social equaliser. Linked to this, there was an overwhelming concern was that everyone should have enough to eat, and that food should be of high quality; premium produce should not be a niche commodity for the more affluent.

Exploring people’s motivation to tackle food waste and poverty reaffirmed the benefits of reconnecting with values to communicate and consolidate progressive action. People also wanted to know where food comes from, and valued traditional food skills such as gardening and cooking. Whilst there are clear challenges to enhancing this in our current social and food system, there was an appetite to re-connect. These findings have been confirmed in wider studies by the Food Standards Agency.

Through our project we saw a contrast between a ‘community’ approach to food, which sought to address the issues raised above, and corporate framings of food as a commodity and a source of income and jobs. We found that there was a tendency to alternate between these two approaches to food in government policy (see our analysis here). The current action plan Towards Sustainable Growth for instance has a strong business focus, while the earlier Food for Wales, food from Wales placed more emphasis on community. At the same time, there is general agreement that both viewpoints are valid and that what is needed is to bring them together more closely so that each serves the other. There are of course many other points of disconnection in the food system; this is just one example.

How to get there

Joining up the dots of the Welsh food system will mean working across sectors, which is as challenging as it is potentially productive. We offer the values approach as a means to dig deep beneath cultural differences and find common ground. There are many ways in which it could be used, including video communications, events and especially shared meals that bring different groups together in an enquiry, as well as case studies of good practice. We are interested in exploring these further.

Jane Powell, independent consultant; Dr Sophie Wynne-Jones, Bangor University; Sam Packer, Woodland Trust; Rosa Robinson,Work With Meaning.

Source: Rethinking food in Wales: reconnecting through values

Trumping our Values?

The rise of Trump and Brexit has seen an embrace of protectionism and anti-globalisation, in a way that has potentially surprised many food activists who have long been working to counter the impetus of neoliberal policy. The agenda for unfettered freetrade has created many challenges for our food system, from excessive carbon footprints to the weakening of regulations on chemical inputs. Food activists champion the need to relocalise our food systems and take back power from corporates, often under the banner of achieving ‘Food Sovereignty’. So how can we now understand this repositioning of political agendas? Might Food Sovereignty activists in the US suddenly find an ally in Trump? This seems unlikely given his corporate perigree, but the clear challenges he poses to a globalising neoliberal agenda offer some pause for thought. The pessimist in me sees that even if neoliberalism as we knew it is now being undone, this doesn’t mean that elites and ‘the capitalist class’ are relinquishing any of their power. This is then clearly at odds with a Food Sovereignty agenda. However, the spaces of possibility opening up and the new lines of fracture emerging in our political and physical food landscapes deserve close attention as this all unfolds. Moreover, the values framework is once again proving its worth as a tool to assess these chaotic shifts. For instance, if we compare the values underpinning the rationale of Food Sovereignty activists with those now being expressed by Trump we see clear dischord, (security v’s equality for instance) even if the actual proposals for re-localising control have some overlaps. In our work over the last year we have been trying to explore the values that different actors can hold in common, even when their agendas are apparently oposed. Working with attention to values can help us come together, to realise what we have in common, to start conversations. The problem I see with the current political discourse around protectionism is it is doing the opposite.

Food Values: going deeper

Some concluding thoughts from Jane Powell on our Impact project this summer…

Wales RCE food group

rspb tent.jpg Dr Sophie Wynne-Jones of Bangor University, at the Royal Welsh Show

We’ve just finished another round of Food Values, this time supported by Bangor University under the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account. This time we wanted to explore how food values play out in different settings, and to see how a focus on values can stimulate new approaches to the food system. We ran four events in the spring and summer: a training for Welsh Government civil servants, with an exploration of how food works across departments and the possibilities under the Well-being of Future Generations Act; an event in Aberystwyth to support the distribution of surplus food by supermarkets and community groups; another at the Royal Welsh Show working with the RSPB to find out what farmers care about; and one in Cardiff to look at equalities and social care. You can read about some of these events on the

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Valuing Food and Farming


What do farmers really care about?

Farmers occupy a very special place in the food system. As the people who grow crops and raise animals, generating most of the raw materials for our food supply chains, they are at the point where different interests come together and so often find themselves the focus of controversy. Should we eat less meat to save the climate, or are sheep and cows the best way to use the grass that grows in Wales? Should we do more to preserve biodiversity or have we gone too far in that direction? How far should we support food production with public money? These important debates can all too often become polarized and focus on what divides us, rather than what brings us together.

We wanted to see how an exploration of shared values could create connection across some of the apparent divides in the food system, and so the Food Values project headed to the Royal Welsh Show this summer to talk to farmers and land managers and start a conversation. It’s easy for discussions about farming to get side-tracked into complaints about the system – the frustrations of dealing with bureaucracy, the powerlessness of the producer in the face of market forces, public indifference to where their food comes from – but we wanted to get beyond those concerns.

We wanted to explore instead the core values that farmers bring to their work, so we engaged them in conversation about their lives and let them speak for themselves. The half-dozen people that we spoke to on a sweltering afternoon amid the crowds of the Royal Welsh were hardly a big enough sample to draw firm conclusions but they did represent a cross-section of farming – young and old, Welsh and incomer, full time and part time, male and female – and a few themes emerged which resonated with wider research we have conducted.

Perhaps the main message was how they saw themselves as producers of food. They spoke of the contribution that they are able to make to rural communities, with whom they are in a “symbiotic relationship”, not just by supplying food but also supporting small businesses and craftspeople, and generally maintaining the fabric of the countryside. They took a pride in their skills and mentioned the satisfaction that came from managing resources well, reducing external inputs and employing local people. There are fewer people working the countryside than there were, and there has been a cultural impoverishment as a result, but farmers know that food production will always be important and so they are ready to look to the future and adapt.

Another theme was the sense they had of obligation towards the land that had come into their care.  “We try not to mess it up for the next generation,” as one of them put it, a way of thinking that naturally encompasses an ethos of conservation and care for wildlife, and comes with a sense of history and a familiarity with the pendulum swings of agricultural policy. There was pride too in educating urban people about food production and the countryside, through schemes such as Open Farm Sunday.

What happens next? We made this video not to be the final word on what farmers care about, but to start a discussion which might lead to deeper understanding of what it is to work the land. We hope it will encourage other farmers to reflect on what really matters to them, and that this might start a wider conversation which will lead to constructive change. Brexit brings with it an opportunity to re-think our food system from the bottom up, and it’s important that everyone’s voice is heard.


Food, Values and Farming in Wales: Bwyd, Gwerthoedd a Ffermio yng Nghymru


Can values help inform sustainable land management policy in Wales, post-Brexit?

Where – Royal Welsh Showground, RSPB Cymru Stand, Countryside Care Area.

Date – 19th July 11.30-12.30

Who with? – RSPB Cymru & Bangor University’s Food Values Team led by Dr Sophie Wynne-Jones.


If we are to deliver truly sustainable land use in Wales, it is important that we overcome some of the historical barriers to working together across the land management sector. We have different backgrounds and professional training, different economic and legislative constraints, but finding points of connection is crucial to ensure we can have productive conversations on a way forward. Faced with uncertainty and potentially restricted budgets it is easy to become defensive and inward looking, but to meet the challenges of sustainable wellbeing we need to work together.

Food, and how it is produced, is an area where many interests are brought together – including social interests such as health and well-being; environmental, including conservation of species and habitats; and economic factors, particularly for those working in food production. None of these factors can be dealt with in isolation if we truly want a sustainable Wales. We need to work together to ensure our policies allow everyone access to healthy nutritious food that is produced within environmental limits, underpin sustainable land use, and support farm businesses that work to protect the natural resources of Wales for future generations.

  • This session will share the values approach trialled through our Food Values research to inform priorities for the development of future farming and land-use strategies in Wales.
  • We aim to explore the values and priorities of farmers and other land managers, asking whether diverse land-use futures can be brokered better by acknowledging the values different stakeholders share.
  • We will also identify and reaffirm the values that underpin the working of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, and those prioritised by the Welsh public.

Throughout the rest of the day we will be sharing findings from our Food Values research on the stand – including examples of how farmers and growers across Wales value their land and livelihoods. Come along and be part of this on-going conversation! We’d like to know…

  1. Why do you farm?
  2. What do you value in life?
  3. What values are important to inform the future of land-use in Wales?


Contact Sophie Wynne-Jones at Bangor University for further details

Cysylltwch â Sophie Wynne-Jones ym Mhrifysgol Bangor i gael rhagor o fanylion.


A all gwerthoedd helpu i lunio polisïau rheoli tir cynaliadwy yng Nghymru, ar ôl y bleidlais i adael yr Undeb Ewropeaidd?

Lle – Maes Sioe Frenhinol Cymru, Stondin RSPB Cymru, Ardal Gofal Cefn Gwlad.

Dyddiad – 19 Gorffennaf, 11.30-12.30

Gyda phwy? – RSPB Cymru a Thîm Gwerthoedd Bwyd Prifysgol Bangor dan arweiniad Dr Sophie Wynne-Jones.


Os ydym am ddefnyddio tir mewn ffordd wirioneddol gynaliadwy yng Nghymru, mae’n hollbwysig ein bod yn goresgyn rhai o’r rhwystrau hanesyddol i weithio gyda’n gilydd ar draws y sector rheoli tir. Mae gennym gwahanol gefndiroedd a hyfforddiant proffesiynol, gwahanol gyfyngiadau economaidd a deddfwriaethol, ond mae’n hanfodol ein bod yn cael hyd i bwyntiau cyswllt er mwyn sicrhau y gallwn gael sgyrsiau cynhyrchiol ynglŷn â’r ffordd ymlaen. Wrth wynebu ansicrwydd a chyllidebau cyfyngedig posib, mae’n hawdd mynd yn amddiffynnol ac edrych tuag i mewn. Ond er mwyn cwrdd â’r heriau o les cynaliadwy mae’n rhaid i ni weithio gyda’n gilydd.

Mae bwyd, a sut caiff ei gynhyrchu, yn faes sy’n dod â sawl diddordeb at ei gilydd – yn cynnwys diddordebau cymdeithasol fel iechyd a lles; materion amgylcheddol, yn cynnwys cadwraeth rhywogaethau a chynefinoedd; a ffactorau economaidd, yn arbennig i’r rhai sy’n gweithio yn y maes cynhyrchu bwyd. Ni ellir ymdrin â dim un o’r ffactorau hyn yn unigol os ydym yn wirioneddol eisiau Cymru gynaliadwy. Mae’n rhaid i ni weithio gyda’n gilydd i sicrhau bod ein polisïau yn caniatáu i bawb allu cael bwyd iach a maethlon a gynhyrchir o fewn terfynau amgylcheddol, eu bod yn sail i ddefnyddio tir yn gynaliadwy, ac yn cefnogi busnesau ffermydd sy’n gweithio i amddiffyn adnoddau naturiol Cymru ar gyfer cenedlaethau’r dyfodol.

  • Bydd y sesiwn hon yn rhannu’r dull gwerthoedd a dreialwyd drwy ein hymchwil Gwerthoedd Bwyd i helpu i lywio blaenoriaethau ar gyfer datblygu strategaethau ffermio a defnyddio tir at y dyfodol yng Nghymru.
  • Ein nod yw archwilio gwerthoedd a blaenoriaethau ffermwyr a rheolwyr tir eraill, yn gofyn a ellir trefnu defnydd tir amrywiol yn y dyfodol yn well trwy gydnabod y gwerthoedd a rennir gan wahanol randdeiliaid.
  • Byddwn hefyd yn nodi ac ail-gadarnhau’r gwerthoedd sy’n sail i waith Deddf Llesiant Cenedlaethau’r Dyfodol (Cymru), a’r gwerthoedd a flaenoriaethwyd gan y cyhoedd yng Nghymru.

Trwy gydol gweddill y diwrnod byddwn yn rhannu canfyddiadau o’n hymchwil Gwerthoedd Bwyd ar y stondin – yn cynnwys enghreifftiau o sut mae ffermwyr a thyfwyr ledled Cymru yn gweld gwerth yn eu tir a’u bywoliaeth. Dewch draw i fod yn rhan o’r sgwrs barhaus hon! Hoffem wybod..

  1. Pam yr ydych chi’n ffermio?
  2. Beth sy’n werthfawr i chi mewn bywyd?
  3. Pa werthoedd sy’n bwysig i lywio dyfodol defnydd tir yng Nghymru?


Wednesday 13 July | 10am – 2pm
Morlan Centre, Aberystwyth, SY23 2HH
Join us and other key voices from Aberystwyth food world where we will discuss the values and share stories that underpin and connect our local food system. We will connect supermarkets, food producers, community groups, local and Welsh Government and build a pledge to use surplus food in a way that is fair and useful for the area.

Panels | Workshops | Lunch
To reserve your place contact Sam on by Friday 24th June.
Developed with Aberystwyth University Sustainability Society supported by Bangor University, as part of a programme to investigate how values can help deliver new approaches to food, education and social change.


When an estimated one-third of the food produced on farms around the world never reaches the table, and people are going to bed hungry even in the UK, something must be wrong. How come our food supply chains are so leaky and what are we going to do about it? In a globalized economy, some of the explanation is well out of the reach of local communities, but the loss from supermarkets and households is something we can all get to grips with.

At the WRAP Cymru/FareShare Surplus Food Summit last week, an invited audience got to work on the question: How to redistribute supermarket food surplus to best effect, not simply diverting it from landfill to stomachs, but also getting the best social and environmental benefits in the process? During the course of the morning, some fascinating facts emerged. Food banks often have a waiting list of volunteers keen to help. Whether supermarkets are willing to give their food waste to community groups depends on the attitude of the manager, their head office, and even just the staff who happen to be on duty on a given day. Only 2% of the 10 million tonnes of food thrown away in the UK each year is from retailers; much more, 70%, is from households, as we buy too much and leave things at the back of the fridge.

The sheer complexity of the problem was evident. This is a challenge to be tackled on many levels, not least IT, as the FareShare FoodCloud partnership with Tesco’s shows. Environmental health regulations, storage facilities, transport and training come into it too. The task of sorting out working relationships between supermarkets, community groups, local government and volunteers is probably the biggest though, and it is one in which values have a part to play.

How is the enthusiasm of many supermarket store managers and individual staff to be translated into company policy, to be reinforced by training and facilities? What motivates volunteers to help out, and how can they be made more effective? How can we remove the stigma of surplus food being for poor people and see it simply as food, for which we all have a responsibility and which we can all enjoy? How to fit food redistribution into the bigger picture of fair food for all, linking it for instance to the local food movement?

These are all questions we will be asking in our next Food Values event, in Aberystwyth. We’ll be working with an existing student initiative that links supermarkets to charities and asking how we could take it to the next level. What might that look like – a food waste café, vans, a website, a warehouse perhaps – and who could help it happen? It will mean forging new partnerships between people with very different interests, and these will be much more effective if people think in terms of the greater good, as well as what’s in it for them. It will mean people coming together on a human level, because they are members of the communities in which they live and coming up with something new.

To do that we’ll be hearing from the inspirational food waste café at Fishguard, which saves an estimated 21 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually by diverting food from landfill, and is an important social hub. We’ll also hear from some of the supermarkets and charities already working with surplus food in Aberystwyth, and by sharing the stories of individuals involved, we’ll find out what’s important to them and see where there is common ground.

The result will be much more than an action plan for food waste redistribution in Aberystwyth. It will include an insight into what makes a community tick, and it how to bring together business, community and government in order to serve their local area. It will, we hope, be another example of the way in which food, touching as it does so many aspects of our lives, is also a powerful force for individual, social and environmental transformation.

Food, Values and the Wellbeing of Future Generations

We recently ran a workshop with the Food Policy group at Welsh Government to share the values approach and how it could be useful for them in their work – both internally and in partnership with civil society.

We proposed values as a useful way to approach the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act in Wales. The Act aims to transcend sectoral and organisational differences. We support this ambition suggesting the identification of shared values as a strategy for finding common cause. Values can bring people together in a way that gets past sectoral allegiances and stimulates fresh thinking. The values methodology enables the creation of a shared vision, beyond sectoral concerns, acknowledging ‘bigger than self’ issues.

Food is also a useful focus here because it has a grounding quality that can reach out to all Welsh people, and make sustainable development more tangible. It also an everyday requirement embedding actions for sustainability in our daily lives and routines.

More broadly, reconnecting with our values can enable greater awareness of what really matters, rather than assuming default positions which may counter-act deeply held priorities in the longer term.Values are strengthened the more we engage them, so we need to ensure our institutions and policies actually reflect and engage the values that people care about, otherwise we can unwittingly undermine them. Recent research by the Common Cause Foundation shows that the Welsh public place particular priority on compassionate values including social justice, broadmindedness, responsibility, honesty and protecting the environment. It is important to collectively acknowledge and celebrate these values.

Using Values in Policy – Some examples of where values of Universalism and Benevolence have been engaged through existing policies and initiatives

  • Connecting food to people and place – Food for Wales from Wales; Products of Designated Origin; Local Sourcing (procurement planning; Food For Life); Cynefin – place-based local service planning & provision; Community Growing Initiatives
  • Linking food to justice and equality (on health, nutrition and access) – Appetite for Life, Food and Fitness, Food Poverty Alliance, school meals, cookery & growing in schools & communities
  • Framing action on food as part of the broader goal of sustainability in Wales – One Wales One Planet; Food for Wales…, Appetite for Life, recycling food waste for community energy provision
  • Taking a globally responsible stance – One Wales One Planet; Fairtrade; twinning projects (schools, towns), Wales for Africa, The Size of Wales
  • Involving people in a collective conversation and shared sense of responsibility – The Wales We Want (informing WFG).