Food is a common subject in our city, and our natural popular interest makes it a focus for many businesses and visitors.
The fact it was also a theme in the city’s successful bid to be European Green Capital 2015 – the only city that included this topic – also shows how important it will be for our future.
So what more can we do to make sure we get the best for all of us from this vital part of our existence? I’ve long been interested in how our food choices affect our health, global trade, the environment, the economy, and animals. The range of groups active in the area show many others are, too. I’ve learned a lot from my involvement in the amazing range of initiatives in what’s a diverse and dynamic local food network. My own contributions have also been varied – from work with local traders running cafes and restaurants, to help them manage their wastes better, to workshops at Bristol’s local festival VegFest.
Recently I also helped undertake a detailed review of all the ways the council can contribute to supporting local food through planning, in its widest sense. There’s so much that the council can influence and change, we found, ranging from its procurement policies, through its markets, land use planning decisions, and management of allotments.
Work of the public health teams can make a real difference to peoples’ lives in some areas of the city where access to healthy food is really poor, and where cooking skills are limited.
Everyone can enjoy something on the theme of food this May, too, with the rich programme for the forthcoming local Food Connections Festival about to get going. Dare I say there’s a great deal on the menu in this programme….
My main involvement in local food initiatives is to create the Traders’ Food Waste and Recycling initiaitive for clusters of local cafes and restaurants, starting in Stokes croft, where many businesses saw a need but did not know how to create a practical service that suits smaller, local establishments. Facilitating this project has been rewarding since it’s meant collaboration with many businesses and community organisations and a real interest from stakeholders well beyond the area.
A big controversy at the moment, however, is the proposed development of Grade 1 agricultural land at Stapleton to make way for the proposed MetroBus transport initiaitve. I really doubt that it’s necessary to cause such irrevocable damage to some of the finest agricultural land in the country – and Bristol’s market garden land – to create extra road and parking space for a transport scheme that’s meant to reduce traffic on our roads.
There’s a key planning decision on this shortly – visit http://www.bluefingeralliance.org.uk/
Everyone who enjoys growing food in our Redland allotments and fruit in the orchards will understand how important and central to our lives local, fresh food is.
It’s also important to our well-being to have green spaces in our neighbourhoods, of course. The interest in events like Apple Day and Get Growing trails – this June again ! – shows how these sites are a lively and valued part of our community.
And finally, on this occasion, we need to remember the social benefits of sharing food and enjoying fresh food, cooking, and eating a balanced diet. I’ve been lucky to enjoy many pot luck food events over the years and also to learn new recipes from what I’ve enjoyed!