Thumbnail image courtesy of Incredible Edible Todmorden

In a recent TED Talk, Pam Warhurst, co-founder of Incredible Edible, claims that food is the unifying language “that will help people find a new way of thinking.” In order to use that language for community action, she began by organizing her thinking around three “plates;” community, learning, and business. In order for her project to start working she had to engage all three plates.

The first part of her project involved using the space they had in her community of Todmorden, England to grow edible greens. She then had to explain to the local people what the plants were and share them, in order to get them engaged. As she points out, “we are all part of the local vegetable jigsaw, we are all part of the solution.” From the new green spaces Warhurst and her team created an “edible route” with the goal to change people’s behaviors around food. They also created a garden at the local high school, engaging the students through hands-on growing as well as a future horticulture class. The local engagement encourages people to rethink their eating habits and eat locally, “increasing local economic confidence.” In fact, 49% of local food traders bottom lines had increased!

As Warhurst encourages us, you have to think about things differently in order to make change. You need to put food sites in the center of towns and schools in order to get people to care and understand the value of eating and shopping locally. The Incredible Edible program has been replicated in many different countries, proving that projects can indeed start from a simple discussion and action plan. Stephen Ritz also proves the benefits of urban gardens with the success of his Green Bronx Machine. We too can make change, not just with the food we buy at the local farmer’s market, but going a step further to encourage others to as well.