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Thinking differently about food

12/09/17
Beth Kirk

Digital Mum Beth Kirk talks about how working for the Food Ethics Council helped her question her own choices about food.

Thinking differently about food

 

In January this year I embarked on a new career journey. I’d spent 18 years working in the corporate world, but now I needed a more flexible career that would work around my young children.

And so I started the Digital Mums training programme – a fantastic business supporting Mums retraining int Strategic Social Media as a flexible career. As part of my training I was very lucky to be partnered with the Food Ethics Council as my client.

My contact at the Food Ethics Council told me they wanted to raise awareness on social media of the organisation’s work to create a fair food system. At first I wondered how on earth this would relate to my corporate bubble of knowledge – after all I’d come from a world that shouted “profit, profit, profit!” on a daily basis, and I felt totally overwhelmed regarding the amount of complex and challenging food & farming issues they worked with.

But as I began to immerse myself in their world of ethical food & farming practices I felt as if I’d been enlightened! I dived head first into their brilliant publications and reports designed to support food businesses and organisations. In order to curate content I also researched other charities’ and organisations’ work to ensure we would appeal to our business and NGO audience.

The vast range of topics the Food Ethics Council worked on was, to me, incredible, as it ranged from the use of antibiotics on animals in food production to factory farming, from pesticide use to the environmental impact of meat production, from hydroponics to innovative vertical farming. And that’s naming just a few of the topics as any expert in this area would know. With each report and piece of content I digested and tweeted for our twitter campaign, the more passionate I felt about their work to give ethical and impartial advice around all of these practices.

In working on the campaign, I felt genuinely shocked about some of the issues I read and tweeted about. For example, a recent UNICEF report stated 10% of children are living in severe food insecurity in the UK. I couldn’t believe this statistic, let alone the frightening percentage of children experiencing ‘holiday hunger’ in school holidays in a country as wealthy as ours. I actually breathed a sigh of relief when the scrapping of free school meals was knocked off the political election agenda.

Similarly, I was really shocked and saddened to hear about animal farming practices: factory farming and the use of antibiotics in meat production made for difficult reading. Ultimately I found myself wondering why on earth any business wouldn’t use the Food Ethics Council best practices, knowledge and ethical advice.  Whilst it ultimately comes down to bottom line accountability within any business, there are most definitely profit opportunities that exist in ethical food practices – e.g. capitalising on the current flexitarian eating trend.

For any business wanting support, the Food Ethics Council Business Forum is quite simply a brilliant way for senior personnel in businesses to come to the table and discuss sensitive ethical food issues in a safe environment, which they can take back to their own businesses and use to instigate changes for the better.

In addition to running a really successful Twitter and LinkedIn campaign (brand reach growth of 912% on Twitter for example), I also feel that working with the Food Ethics Council has delivered something for me on a personal level. I have found myself questioning my own food purchasing habits for our family.

Before I started working with the organisation did I think about where meat came from and why it was cheap? Had I considered that some children would go hungry in holiday periods due to not having access to a free school meal? Had I considered a reusable coffee cup? Why on earth were we using drinking straws? (Two nasty culprits of plastic pollution harming our seas). Scarily, the answer for me was a “no” to all these questions.

And so now I do consider these things and more. I know where our local community fridge is and I am extremely careful about food waste; I buy local and better-quality meat; and I think about where our food comes from and how it got to my plate. I wasn’t so naïve that I didn’t know about these things prior to the campaign, but the Food Ethics Council definitely led me to take action. It also brought home to me the power of social media: you can reach people with your messages that you may never have been able to talk to before.

These are my personal reflections on working with, and being inspired by, the Food Ethics Council, and my own journey regarding the changes I have made to my life. I’m hopeful that there is a way we can all work together to get the message out there so that others can think about making these changes too.

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