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Seeking food justice in York

It’s not enough to hand out food, if the broken systems are allowed to continue.

Two people who know that well are Mary Passeri and Sydnie Corley, co-chairs of York Food Justice Alliance and tenacious campaigners against the causes of poverty.

York artists Sydnie Corley and Mary Passeri, who run the York Food Justice Alliance at SPARK in Piccadilly, York. Picture by David Harrison.
Sydnie Corley and Mary Passeri, co-chairs of the York Food Justice Alliance. The duo are both artists, and are pictured in their old studio. Photo by David Harrison.

Mary and Sydnie feature on the September page of our 2021 Dignity, Agency, Power calendar, in recognition of the work they do across York and beyond.

Before covid, the alliance existed to coordinate all the different food aid projects around York and to speak up about what was causing hunger in the first place. A report was sent to the city council and Mary and Sydnie joined in others in producing this short film, focusing on hunger in the school holidays:

The duo also ran their own project, a zero-waste food stall, which helped many people get by day-to-day. But they both believe passionately in the need for a long-term focus. “We need to look for an exit strategy,” says Sydnie. “We need to look at how we can end the need for having food banks.”

Sydnie Corley, co-chair of York Food Justice Alliance. Photo by David Harrison.

Speaking up and sharing insights

To that end, they have spoken up in local and national media, sharing their insights on Radio York, BBC 5 Live, the Six O’Clock News on TV, and in The Yorkshire Post. 

They also helped to write the 2020 Reporting Poverty guide and addressed a room full of journalists, on the need for more first-hand and less stigmatising journalism.

Mary said then: “We’ve done media work because we want to challenge preconceptions. People have ideas about single parents or people on disability benefits or whatever, and we wanted to challenge the stigma and stereotypes.”

Mary Passeri, co-chair of York Food Justice Alliance. Photo by David Harrison.

Vision of a better society

This year, they have also been involved in the Covid Realities initiative, and the Food Experiences During Covid-19 research project, both of which aim to help ensure lasting change, as the country rebuilds after covid. 

People with experience of poverty know better than anyone what needs to change, and why. Those are the voices that must be heard most loudly.

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