Kath Dalmeny has been chief executive of the Sustain food and farming alliance since 2016. She spoke to EHN about food poverty, climate change and why the views of EH should be heard.
"I have had some of the most important moments in my life connecting over good food. Yet most people can’t afford to eat well, and the way we produce food casts a big shadow on the environment, climate, food working conditions and animal welfare. I am motivated to fix that.
"Brexit has eaten my working life. But I am actually most concerned to ensure that what emerges ‘on the other side’ is a better system for food, farming and fishing that regenerates precious natural systems, sustains decent livelihoods, and provides good, healthy food for everyone. My haunting worries are fixing hunger and preventing dangerous climate change. A better food system offers solutions for both.
"I absolutely love and am fuelled by the people who work in food. Everything from sustainable farming, to catering, to checking safety standards, devising food policy and finding delicious ways to repurpose food surplus. I am frustrated when their passion and goodwill is thwarted by short-sighted policies, poor funding decisions or people who don’t ‘get it’ that good food means better lives.
"I have worked with EH officers and CIEH for years, always valuing the commitment to robust public health protection and inspiring technical expertise. Some have brought milestone legal cases to flush out endemic problems in food safety, food information and public health. On Brexit, the voices of EH professionals needs to come to the fore – especially in good food governance, institutional capacity and standards for food in international trade.
"Sustain is an alliance of about 100 food and farming organisations. I have worked for about a third of them over the past 20 years or so. I first started at Sustain in 2000 as a volunteer doing supermarket surveys. I did some consultancy work, became a trustee, and then policy director. In my interview for the Sustain chief executive role, I was asked: 'Why do you want this job?' I said (truthfully): 'You can’t keep me away, this is my life!'
"This is a time of immense change for our food and farming system. Policy-makers and trade negotiators will be making decisions that affect the way we feed ourselves in the future, and the voices of EH professionals must be heard."
This article is adapted from a piece that appeared in the April 2019 issue of EHN.