Katherine Tanko from North Bristol Advice Centre writes about how an alliance of community groups came together in Lockleaze to make a guide for people at risk of food poverty to access a multiple set of services, rather than needing to talk to different agencies. The guide is also designed for workers in agencies to refer to.
In 2018, community groups in Lockleaze formed the Lockleaze Food Alliance to try and positively impact food culture and tackle food poverty locally. The area used to be known as a “fresh fruit and veg desert”, while more recently foodbank use had soared, with over 4500 emergency parcels given out last year. The alliance included North Bristol Advice Centre, Buzz Lockleaze, Lockleaze Neighbourhood Trust, United Communities and North Bristol Foodbank.
Our first piece of work was to gather information together in a “guide” on all the help and support already available locally to help people avoid food poverty. We wanted something that could be used by people at risk of food poverty to maximise their income and access affordable food, as well as frontline workers to help them signpost people to the best help available locally.
North Bristol Advice Centre, which provides free and independent advice on benefits and debt, led on the project. Our first challenge was to gather information from very busy workers about the services their groups provided. This was complicated by some activities (such as holiday lunch clubs) being seasonal and reliant on uncertain funding. We had to find a way to include accurate information without the guide becoming quickly out of date.
The second challenge was the format. Print can be quickly out of date, yet an online resource may not be accessible to everyone. We decided on a hard copy booklet that would also be available online. It was important that the booklet have a warm and welcoming look, the kind of thing people would want to pick up and look at – not a generic “services” leaflet.
We worked with Liz Cook, whose food illustrations on The Nutrition Charts we loved. Liz created some icons and a location map, which our designer used as a style guide. There was lots of discussion on language and imagery used and how these would be interpreted by different people as we wanted the guide to be as accessible as possible. Finally we wanted a name that drew people in and did not sound like “boring money advice”. Brainstorming with partners helped us choose a title that both described what the guide did and related it specifically to our community: Unlocked.
A prototype was produced and we tested it in the community, working with different groups. This helped us improve the content with suggestions of things we hadn’t included. It also gave people a sense of ownership of the guide, as having been involved in its development. As a result, it has been welcomed as a valued community resource with a shared sense of ownership.
Unlocked: A Guide to Avoiding Food Poverty in Lockleaze was launched in February 2019. It includes information on emergency food and payments, money advice, employability support, where get online, healthy start vouchers, where to find healthy hot meals and more. It was loaded onto our website and onto The Lockleaze Neighbourhood Trust’s website. We also had 400 hard copies printed and distributed to key points in the community including foodbanks, health centre, schools, children’s centre and community venues.
The response has been extremely positive with people liking the look of the guide, saying it was approachable and very practical. On Facebook we reached 3078 people, with 349 engaged and 28 shares – our most popular post of all time! The Lockleaze Food Alliance has since grown with five new members: North Bristol Children’s Centre, The Vench Adventure Playground, Filton Avenue School, Feeding Bristol and Bloomin’ Lockleaze.
Policy makers and organisations across the city are working together to address the causes of food insecurity, but each one of us can take action to help bring food equality to Bristol. Take action as an individual or as an organisation on the Going For Gold website now.
Katherine Tanko is Fundraising and Communications Officer at North Bristol Advice Centre.