Empathy Action’s interest in food is not a new thing (we serve up a slum lunch as part of The Poverty Trap day programme). We are looking to do more empathy work in this area as the future of food is a highly topical issue – think climate change, sustainability, workers’ rights, food waste and poverty (e.g. it’s estimated that a whopping 1/3 of food produced globally is wasted while 1/9 of the world’s population goes hungry). It affects us all.
The following is an account of our time here (written by Becky) and walking through an imaginative take of Future of Food by the V&A Museum.
It’s hard to sum this place up … but if there were just three things our team learn, they might be these:
- Beautiful things can be made from merde (the French).
- Heston Blumenthal is not shy! (see pictures beneath).
- A toilet can function without water and be hygienic. And (best bit) make good use of its waste.
That’s just for starters. In fact, everything is covered here from all manner of surprising angles through over 70 installations which revisit each stage in the food cycle in creative and innovative ways.
Sandy put it interestingly like this: “I was surprised to see the V&A take on the issue of food… I usually associate it with fashion and design. It was fascinating to see the world (& problems) that we have created through our innovations and design at every stage in the process of producing food.“
There’s so much to digest, but by no means are we spoon-fed. For example, we watch a 13-minute film on farming which lays bare the unpalatable truths of high-tech industrial agriculture, process by process. The monotonous, mechanical rhythms underscoring the documentary say it all. A brief trailer is here, but bear in mind that it is not easy viewing.
However, it is clear that the future does not have to be all doom and gloom. We do have choices: from following maps pointing to the Fallen Fruit of London to a novel look at how we value those who put in the ground work.
The exhibition, fascinatingly, ends with a table. A huge 11m long table that showcases projects which examine how the eating process can be transformed (e.g. for particularly affected groups of people, like Alzheimer’s sufferers). The generous table also reminds us how important it is to share food in order to inspire discussion, debates, laughter and connections.
There is food for thought – and many thoughts about food. There are many challenges that tomorrow poses around how we will feed the world, ourselves and provide for the next generation and we love the idea that we can face these with a table… or with our together-ness.
We are consumed by the idea that food is a powerful tool, and that we can all be agents for change in a world beset by challenges. The global food chain is ripe for reinvention – and it is already happening. Continuing to gather together, around that great big table, to foster empathy so that we can make the best choices is still key.
Our appetites have certainly been whetted. And as the co-founders of the exhibition say, “Nothing is off the table.”
FOOD: Bigger than the Plate is on until Sunday, 20th October. A podcast about the exhibition is here. If you are interested in helping us with creating more empathy using food, we’d love to hear from you.