Hungry for change

Categories: News and previews

Healthy Not Hungry, an international campaign to eradicate hunger, recently hosted a dinner at which Borough Market was well-represented. Clare Finney finds out more about this admirable, ambitious programme

“They were reading from my soul—and yet I’d never heard of them,” remarks Tim Maddams, chef, presenter, cookery teacher and campaigner for food sustainability. He’s been on a mission to educate people about ecologically sound approaches to cooking since coming to prominence as head chef at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage, and he played a pivotal role in Hugh’s Fish Fight campaign. Because of this, he explains, he was invited to be a chef for the Healthy Not Hungry campaign dinner held at Glaziers Hall in London: one of 12 that took place around the world in January.

Healthy Not Hungry, an international campaign supported by the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation and others, aims to achieve the goal of ‘zero hunger’ by 2030. “Achieving zero hunger and good health go hand in hand—a hungry world, will never be a healthy world,” it states.

“It was designed with the aim of injecting new momentum into the conversation around the sustainable development goals of zero hunger and good health for all,” explains Tim. Healthy Not Hungry is “a programme focused not just on feeding people, but on things like crop diversity—making people less susceptible to drought and poverty by encouraging them to grow and eat a range of crops, not just maize to sell to US pig farmers, for example.”

Donated produce
Money raised by the programme is spent on feeding and educating people in need—which is why Tim had never heard of it, despite, as he says, spending his life “ranting about food production and food waste”. “They don’t have the money to spend on telling people about their work, great though it is,” he explains. The programme doesn’t even cover the expenses of its volunteers. “What they’d pay for my diesel would feed three kids in Romania. But I get it,” says Tim. And he’s not the only one: Arthur Potts Dawson, Atul Kochhar, Alix Caiger and others were all in the kitchen for the campaign dinner, while several Borough Market traders donated produce: Rubies in the Rubble, Bread Ahead and Spice Mountain. Gated Garden provided flowers and greenery.

David Matchett, development manager for Borough Market, was a guest at the event and described the atmosphere as “like a homecoming. There were so many people from the Market, and so many other I’d met throughout my career.” To be at such an important, wide-reaching event and yet to see so many familiar faces was “humbling”, David continues. “With all the other Healthy Not Hungry dinners taking place around the world, we felt truly connected. There is a place for communication between the people who are highlighting these issues”—issues like inclusive development, child nutrition, rural infrastructure, food waste and crop diversity.

Tangible change
“For years, it felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall—that maybe it was just me and a bunch of weirdy beardies who cared about this stuff,” says Tim Maddams. “But we’ve seen far more awareness in the past 15 years.” And campaigning is beginning to have an impact. “For example, in 2015, the EU finally started implementing the fish discards ban,” says Tim. “That’s tangible change.” Sustainable development works slowly, and while reducing hunger around the world to zero is clearly a highly ambitious aim, that doesn’t make it naive. “It’s all part of a dialogue. This will keep going until the problem ceases to be,” says David. “It’s easy to be cynical—because not being cynical requires work.”

Simply bringing people together, even like-minded people who already share a hymn sheet, prompts progress. “I reckon at least two or three cool ideas will come out of that dinner as a result of us sharing knowledge,” says Tim, and cites just one example. “When I first got on board, the menu was 100 per cent vegetarian. I had to point out that this was short-sighted—that in order to grow plants at all we need to control pest populations. Numbers of pigeons, rabbits, deer and so on have increased 1,000-fold with mass arable farming.” You can use deterrents, he continues, but these wild animals will only move onto the next field and sooner or later “learn to ignore the deterrent”. They need curbing if the crops are to be saved. What better way to do that, asks Tim, than to treat them as food?

Hence the menu, which included lightly seared pigeon breast as well as seasonal British vegetables like slow roast celeriac and land cress pesto. “We were eating the message,” David enthuses. “A three course, delicious, nutritionally balanced meal with the message of ‘healthy not hungry’ running right through it. That was the highlight for me.” As the event’s keynote speaker, Unilever vice-president Rebecca Marmot noted: “Success is dependent on action at every level. Action in kitchens, on farms, in schools, in government. In all walks of life, we must change our behaviours and take responsibility for our choices.” If the global population really is to go from hungry to healthy, we must all practice—and eat—what we preach: not just at World Food Programme dinners, but every single day.

Image: Nimdoma Sherpa raises a Healthy Not Hungry flag in north-west Nepal