Co-operation and a 21st-Century Food Strategy for Wales

At a time of declining wages of cotton and woollen workers failing to improve wages and conditions, the Co-operative Movement grew out of the efforts of early Owenite socialists and chartists and the need for pure, unadulterated goods, keen pricing and a member dividend on purchases. At first the shop only sold five basic items – butter, flour, sugar, oatmeal and candles – but after very many difficulties expanded very quickly. This is our co-operative contribution in developing a food strategy in Wales.

Food is the cornerstone of existence, tying into multiple other policy areas across the whole of devolved government (health and social care, education, anti-poverty, wellbeing, agriculture and environment, to name a few). It is therefore critical that we have a food strategy fit for purpose, one that is collaborative in its approach. However, the Welsh Government’s current food strategy is disconnected, with insufficient collaboration across the devolved policy spectrum. 

One way to support our vision of a food and farming, circular and foundational economy (key tenets of the current Labour administration) would be to ensure collaboration through the creation of a Wales Food Commission. This Commission would direct and monitor a new cross-departmental food system strategy which will deliver for our health, environment, economy and society. This new strategy would drive and reward sustainable Farm & Fishing to Fork supply chains, address food waste and promote healthy, sustainable diets and consumption for all. 

One key part of this strategy will be public sector procurement. Procurement will be a central driver in ensuring collaborative working, focussing on significant areas including: 

• Nutritious Food for all – A food strategy must ensure the 70,000 children in Wales that live in poverty currently not eligible for Free School Meals, receive them. This would help reduce long-term health inequalities, particularly in terms of preventable diseases, including diabetes (which costs the Welsh NHS approximately £500 million annually, 10% of its annual budget), strokes and coronary heart disease. This approach would also remove stigma and administration processes associated with means testing.

• Food for public health – School food standards should be aligned to the Eat Well guide and public procurement and increase sustainable production capability/potential of healthy food in Wales, with similar attention to be given to NHS catering. This alignment is already being considered. 

• Food Literacy – This would require schools to offer experiential food literacy education to equip pupils with essential life skills and the knowledge and confidence to grow, prepare and choose healthy food that will support positive health outcomes and help reduce health care costs.

• Net zero food system and farming for nature and the climate – Public sector procurement standards should be aligned to environmental standards/targets to drive much needed change.

• More sustainable seafood – Welsh seafood should be sustainably incorporated into school and NHS food standards.

• Sustainable food sector jobs and livelihoods – We need sustainable and fairly paid jobs in farming, fisheries, food manufacture and public sector catering, including the school meal service. Rural, valley and coastal communities have been suggested to be the hardest hit by Covid-19; jobs should be targeted to these areas. 

• Food Justice -. During Covid-19, councils, community initiatives and food operations demonstrated what benefits can be achieved when we work together and co-ordinate action in ensuring food access. To embed that extraordinary effort we support the appointment of local food champions and the development and co-ordination of locally based approaches to food access, including support for community food projects and social prescribing. Let us also highlight the importance of what use to be called ‘meals on wheels’ an essential service that works really well, for example, in Cardiff. 

• Co-operative solutions have much to offer. Government should support: food processing and distribution such as food hubs and worker co-ops to foster local economies; small and medium sized enterprises and co-op producers to reduce the environmental impact of transportation and enable better use of resources; further development of secondary co-ops in agriculture and tourism to promote economies of scale and joint marketing; and fresh food co-ops and co-operative community initiatives such as Incredible Edible, including making land available for community growing. 

• Healthy Start Scheme in Wales – Government should actively consider whether the scheme is the best vehicle for supporting low-income families with young children to access a healthy diet. Government should gather evidence to see how we can strengthen delivery and continue to work with the UK Government to increase the uptake of the scheme, including through digitalisation. 

In conclusion, food and farming are being overlooked as a way to drive economic recovery in Wales. We need to learn from the Covid-19 crisis to develop a resilient, fair, sustainable system of food, farming and fishing that works for everyone. A food system which provides everyone with healthy food and also fit to tackle food poverty, climate change and restore nature, whilst providing good and safe livelihoods. The creation of an independent, representative Wales Food Commission would direct and monitor a new cross-departmental food system strategy to bring about a food system fit for the 21st Century in Wales.

David Smith is a former Gwent Tertiary College Catering Lecturer, served on the Food Standards Agency (Wales) Advisory Committee and the Main Group Board Director at the Co-operative Group.

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Building a Co-operative Institution in Wales – Banc Cambria

Co-ops and Mutuals Wales & Addysg Oedolion Cymru |Adult Learning Wales presents:

Building a Co-operative Institution in Wales – Banc Cambria
Wednesday 23 September 7-8.10 pm

Wales needs to develop institutions that work for the collective good of its citizens. Mark Hooper is leading a project to establish a co-operatively owned, community bank in and for Wales. The conversation will revolve around the differences Banc Cambria will make, in terms of localised bank operations, community engagement & small business support. The session will be introduced by Mick Antoniw MS/AS Labour-Co-op Member of the Senedd for Pontypridd.

To join: Click the link and note your details and go to this event (amongst other) at once please and by September 18. A digital invitation and further directions will then be sent to you.

This event is part of Addysg Oedolion Cymru |Adult Learning Wales’s ‘Late summer school’, offering a variety of digital events in conjunction with partner organisations.


Mentrau Cydweithredol a Chydfuddiannol Cymru yn cyflwyno:

Adeiladu sefydliad cydweithredol yng Nghymru – Banc Cambria

Mercher Medi 23 7-8.10 pm

Mae Cymru angen datblygu sefydliadau sy’n gweithio er lles ei holl ddinasyddion. Mae Mark Hooper yn arwain prosiect i sefydlu banc cymunedol yng Nghymru ac i Gymru, fydd dan berchnogaeth gydweithredol. Bydd trafodaeth am y gwahaniaeth y gallai Banc Cambria wneud o ran bancio lleol, ymgysylltu cymunedol a chefnogi busnesau bychain. Bydd y sesiwn yn cael ei chyflwyno gan Mick Antoniw MS/AS, aelod Llafur a Chydweithredol y Senedd dros Bontypridd.

I ymuno: Cliciwch y linc a nodi eich manylion a’r digwyddiadau sydd o ddiddordeb (Ar unwaith o.g.dd. ac erbyn 18 Medi fan bellaf) Bydd gwahoddiad digidol a chyfarwyddiadau pellach yn cael hanfon atoch.

Mae’r digwyddiad hefyd yn ran o ‘Ysgol haf bach Mihangel’ Addysg Oedolion Cymru |Adult Learning Wales sy’n cynnig amrywiaeth o ddigwyddiadau digidol mewn cydweithrediad â phartneriaid ac aelodau cefnogol (manylion isod). Mae hefyd yn cyd-fynd gydag’r Wythnos Addysg Oedolion Ddigidol.

Iaith: Mae iaith y cyflwyniadau wedi eu nodi. Mae croeso fodd-bynnag i chi gyfrannu yn y Gymraeg i’r holl ddigwyddiadau a byddwn yn hwyluso cyfieithiad os oes angen.


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Welsh Food Alliance 2009

With the current covid-19 lockdown, food access for older people is a key  issue in this current pandemic. We are pleased to make available a 2009 Welsh Food Alliance report of a UK Older People’s Food Summit on growing malnutrition in an ageing society, which we feel is very relevant today.

UK Older People’s Food Summit Cardiff 18th March 2009

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International Women’s Day – 8 March 2019 – This year is themed around gender-balance Balance drives a better working world. Let’s all help create a #BalanceforBetter

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We need a tax funded National Care Service

With older people 80+ predicted to increase by 44% in Wales by 2030 we need active space with tax funded National Care Service for self help enterprises -member owned and controlled @CartrefiCymru @Glennwalescoop @KarenLWilkie @derekwalker_ @wgmin_deputy @wgmin_health @fmwales @JulieMorganLAB

When will we have a national conversation on how we move from the commitment in the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2016 to an exclusively co-operative and publicly run social care system across Wales.

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Adult Education 100 – Making its Mark February 2019

The aim of this newsletter is to give you an update of recent events and also describe how you can contribute your expertise and ideas to both the campaign and the Centenary Commission. Disappointingly (though perhaps unsurprisingly in these troubled times) it has proved extremely difficult to secure even the most limited resources with which to deliver the campaign or indeed fully involve those who so generously and enthusiastically responded to our call. That was our plan and our intention. We continue to seek funding but are forced to do things on the proverbial shoestring, so any ideas on how to access financial support are most welcome!

Firstly, a reminder of how we got to this point. You will remember that there were two main strands to our plans for the Centenary of the Ministry of Reconstruction’s Commission on Adult Education. The first was to kick-start a Campaign which would raise the profile of adult education as a critical factor in addressing the challenges facing out times – from automation to fragmented communities, deepening inequalities to a sharpening and dangerous demographic deficit. It’s aims are:

  • ▪  To raise the profile of adult education as part of a national conversation about the need for lifelong learning in a rapidly changing world;
  • ▪  To explore the nature, purpose, and place of adult education for society’s past, present and future;
  • ▪  To encourage people and communities to value and participate in adult educational activities which developlasting understandings, opinions and experiences;
  • ▪  To develop policies and secure resources for transformative adult education.

Read the full newsletter here

Adult Education 100 Newslettter Feb 2019 -Final (1)

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Autumn Gathering in Cardiff

Adult and Community Learning and Wellbeing Across Wales (23.10.18) Cardiff

Last month there was a gathering of co-operative, educational and social enterprises in Cardiff sharing ideas for broadening adult education and learning with impacts designed to benefit the wider community.

We have set ourselves the task of  promoting equality of wellbeing through adult and community learning in a collaboration across three sectors: adult and community learning, the co-op movement, and the  third  sector. Groups including Adult Learning Wales, Cartrefi Cymru, the Co-operative Group, Co-operative College, Wales Co-operative Centre, Drivers For Change, Co-ops and Mutuals Wales and Wales Council for Voluntary Action.

It may sound straightforward, but actually further work is needed so that for example we recognise positive impacts from education, which are not formally measured or accredited. Collective benefits could be more valuable than individual achievements and curriculum development must closer reflect a mapping of local community needs. So with some investigative research underway there will be another gathering of these groups to plan a way forward early in 2019.


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Co-operative Thinking – Collective Learning

Delegates: Cooperative Thinking, September 2018

Photo: Chris Hall

Continue reading

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An Invitation to Think Cooperatively, Learn Collectively

Saturday, September 8th 2018
9.30am for 10.00am – 4.00pm
The Tabernacle Chapel, The Hayes, Cardiff CF10 1AJ

Bringing together co-operative and community activists for shared learning Continue reading

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Co-operatives Fortnight

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Save the Date

We are planning our next all-day event for Saturday September 8th at the Tabernacle Church on the Hayes, Cardiff.

Details of this exiting event will be published in the coming weeks

Watch this space

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In wolves’ clothing? Fake Non-Profits

David Smith recommends a blog post by Ed Mayo.


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Robert Owen: socialist

‘BBC Radio 4 British Socialism: The Grand Tour – Series 1: From Robert Owen to Keir Hardie Episodes 15 minutes.Anne McElvoy traces the emergence of British socialism through the 19th century, from Robert Owen’s visionary schemes for a society based on villages sharing goods in common, to the arrival of Labour MPs in Parliament 1906’ 

The omnibus edition is on Friday evening at 21:00 –

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Report: Adult Learning in the Community for the Community

A link to the third C&MW event, held last November can be found here:

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David Smith remembers a speech by Barack Obama:

Change will not come about if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for”. (Chicago 2008)

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Archive report on the first C&MW event

dsCooperative Education draft report v1

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The Wisdom of Citizen Clem

The Wisdom of Citizen Clem – individually & collectively we can make a change #coops #cooperation #together

by socialcoopforumwales

David word cloud

Chilling out in a sunny climate after organising three events over the past twelve months developing the future of Co-operative Education in Wales with Co-ops and Mutuals Wales, I have just finished reading “Citizen Clem: A Biography of Attlee: Winner of the Orwell Prize” by John Bew which I started reading six months ago.

Continue reading

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Adult Learning in the Community for the Community

  1. I Pictures by Chris Hall of the recent C&MW/ALW event held at Cartrefi Cymru Coop.

Speakers shown include Tom O’Kane, Toni Schiavone and Dafydd Rhys.

A report on the day will be published.

Speaker Dafydd Rhys

Continue reading

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Robin Murray, posthumous award

The 2017 Albert Medal is awarded posthumously to Robin Murray for pioneering work in social innovation.

Robin Murray was a visionary social and economic thinker, whose life’s work was guided by a profound commitment to mutuality and cooperation.

 David Smith comments: A very well deserved posthumous award to Robin Murray. 

The best tribute we can all make will be to emulate his visionary commitment to mutuality and cooperation.

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A new event facilitated by CMW

Adult Learning in the Community for the Community

Saturday 18th November @ Cartrefi Cymru Co-operative

This is the third event facilitated by Co-ops and Mutuals Wales aimed at highlighting the crucial role of Co-operative Education in building a Co-operative Wales. Our theme – Re-visioning Adult Community Learning for a Co-operative and Democratically Engaged and thriving Wales is very timely with recent Government policy and review announcements on Adult Education. We are delighted that Addysg Oedolion Cymru/Adult Learning Wales will be co-sponsoring the day as part of their new democratic engagement curriculum and campaign to revitalise Adult Community Learning.

Places are limited: admission by invitation. £10 by cheque or cash on the day. For further details please contact David Smith: Secretary C&MW without delay! (01633) 266781

9.30 Arrival and refreshments

10.00 Introductions: Sue Lyle

The Community of Enquiry Approach and asking conceptual questions – getting to know each other

10.20   Setting the scene – Think Piece 1: Tom O’Kane from Cae Tan, Swansea, biodynamic farm. Working with young people and local communities that demonstrates co-operative practices and adult learning in action.

10.40 Small group work response to Think Piece 1: What can we learn from a community-based small-scale cooperative project to help us re-envision Adult Community Learning?

11.00 Policy context – Think Piece 2: Professor David Reynolds, Acting Head, Swansea University School of Education Adult Community Education provision, including legislative/policy context, relevant international experience and ideas.

11.20   Break

11.30    Small group work response to Think Piece 2: What are the assumptions of the Welsh Government and what are the implications for Adult Community Learning? 

12.00   How do we do it? – Think Piece 3: Toni Schiavone. Former Director of the Basic Skills Agency in Wales and Head of the Welsh Government Basic Skills Unit, currently, Vice Chair ALW.  Practical steps and policy arrangements required for adult education in a Co-operative and democratically engaged Wales – bilingual presentation.

12.30 Small group work response to Think Piece 3: How best can we seed and support grass roots Adult and Community Learning initiatives? 

1.00      Lunch and Networking

2.00 Small group work: What questions arise for adult learning practitioners if we are to re-vision Adult Community Learning? Generating questions for enquiry.

2.40 Community of Enquiry 

3.40 Next steps: What should we bring from today into our different contexts?


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