Food & Birmingham’s economy are inextricably linked — & there are tensions

We’re seeking responses to our interim report, a discussion document on Food & the city economy before the end of January — please comment below.

There are clear tensions between the political desire to attract investment to the local food industry through initiatives such as the Food Hub zone and to support local businesses and the health and social issues caused by obesity and increasing levels of food poverty and poor enforcement of food standards in Birmingham.

We give examples (on page 3) of some of these tensions — there are no doubt more.

Please do respond to our request for comments before the end of January.

What’s missing? What are the issues for our strategic decision-makers? What would you like to be brought to the fore in our final report?

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Background: We commissioned Nick Hughes to carry out research on the matter, as reported last September. This discussion document is a collation of the information Nick gathered, along with pointers as to issues, challenges and tensions it presents for future strategic decision-making .

His work shows the food sector is a diverse one that is very important, if not integral, to the economic fortunes of the city.

He has also pointed out that the importance of food cannot simply be measured in monetary terms. Its social significance cannot be over-stated, neither indeed can the longer-term economic impact.

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If you’d rather make your point out of the public gaze, email us on info [at] newsite.birminghamfoodcouncil.org

  13 thoughts on “Food & Birmingham’s economy are inextricably linked — & there are tensions

  1. This is really important tension to recognise and explore. Just one point of accuracy from the report: whatever the newspaper article said, whilst schools should be consulted about applications for planning permission for takeaways and are encouraged by Public
    Health to object, new ones near schools cannot be universally banned. I don’t think any have been turned down on those grounds- it is only if the “local shopping area” as defined by Planning already has 10% of units classified as Hot Food Takeaways that they can be refused permission

  2. This is really important tension to recognise and explore. Just one point of accuracy from the report: whatever the newspaper article said, whilst schools should be consulted about applications for planning permission for takeaways and are encouraged by Public
    Health to object, new ones near schools cannot be universally banned. I don’t think any have been turned down on those grounds- it is only if the “local shopping area” as defined by Planning already has 10% of units classified as Hot Food Takeaways that they can be refused permission

  3. And another point- I have noticed that in many areas with a large number of takeaways, a single outlet that does something different appears. There is a juice and baguette bar in Washwood Health, and a roasted chicken place on Dudley Road, offering an alternative to brown and crispy deep fried stuff. One assumes that those opening them believe there is demand, and once open they should create demand. Most people buy prepared food some of the time. So could it be that what is on offer will change in the right direction for nutritional health in a thriving and diverse sector of the economy? And how do we effectivelyencourage this to happen more quickly ?

  4. And another point- I have noticed that in many areas with a large number of takeaways, a single outlet that does something different appears. There is a juice and baguette bar in Washwood Health, and a roasted chicken place on Dudley Road, offering an alternative to brown and crispy deep fried stuff. One assumes that those opening them believe there is demand, and once open they should create demand. Most people buy prepared food some of the time. So could it be that what is on offer will change in the right direction for nutritional health in a thriving and diverse sector of the economy? And how do we effectivelyencourage this to happen more quickly ?

  5. This is a very interesting interim report, which already gives a comprehensive overview of the complexity and issues of food supply systems in UK cities. If the report is looking at the whole contribution to Birmingham’s economy from food, then I think that the infrastructure surrounding food distribution also needs to be considered explicitly. By this, I mean the packaging, logistics, haulage and management companies that service the food industry. Those already in place contribute to the existing economy but to expand Birmingham as a distribution hub, will also require the infrastructure of these services to be encouraged and strengthened. Food safety frameworks need to be equally comprehensive, and the comments about the lack of public health laboratory services is deeply worrying for a city of this size. Finally (for now), part of any cities food systems are street markets which offer some outlet for fresh produce but also cheap processed and package foods. Farmers markets may also be in place.

  6. This is a very interesting interim report, which already gives a comprehensive overview of the complexity and issues of food supply systems in UK cities. If the report is looking at the whole contribution to Birmingham’s economy from food, then I think that the infrastructure surrounding food distribution also needs to be considered explicitly. By this, I mean the packaging, logistics, haulage and management companies that service the food industry. Those already in place contribute to the existing economy but to expand Birmingham as a distribution hub, will also require the infrastructure of these services to be encouraged and strengthened. Food safety frameworks need to be equally comprehensive, and the comments about the lack of public health laboratory services is deeply worrying for a city of this size. Finally (for now), part of any cities food systems are street markets which offer some outlet for fresh produce but also cheap processed and package foods. Farmers markets may also be in place.

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