Heart of BS13: Reducing food insecurity in Hartcliffe and Withywood

Jodie Smith is a Community Food and Nutrition Worker at the Heart of BS13 charity in Hartcliffe and Withywood (formerly HHEAG). The charity has been supporting local community healthy eating projects for nearly 30 years. Jodie has more than 10 years of experience working within community Public Health programmes and writes here about the vital work of Heart of BS13.

Woven into the Heart of BS13 is an aim to reduce food insecurity. We are very lucky here to have an array of incredible community assets such as the abundant allotments that serve our cookery programmes and which support local people to cook with chemical-free ingredients. As well as a great community kitchen where we cook each week with local people! Some of the many ways that we align with Going for Gold’s Community Action and Urban Growing actions.

We have several new and exciting projects taking place in 2020, and in 2019 have newly launched a veg box scheme to help to make delicious, locally grown produce more accessible and affordable to the people living in the BS13 area. We have a wonderful community shop that not only sells our fruit and vegetables, but also Fair Trade products from the Essential Trading Company who pride themselves on low food miles and sustainable produce. 

Other projects that we plan to introduce in 2020 in order to reduce food insecurity and increase food equality is our Harty Foods ready-meal enterprise and a community larder. Both projects aim to make healthy and local food the more affordable, accessible and convenient option. We believe this is an important project and one that relates to the Going for Gold Food Equality ethos and aims. Supporting both our new schemes will be gardeners and cooks from BS13 on a paid and voluntary basis. 

Local government figures highlight that some 43,000 people are considered to be food insecure in Bristol, with many of these people living in the most deprived areas. The BS13 area remains amongst the bottom 10% of the most socially and economically deprived parts of England and features significantly in national data as a place in which food insecurity, high rates of smoking, poor mental health, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other diet-related conditions are prevalent. 

We hope through our many positive healthy eating and nutrition projects to bring not only food equality to Bristol but to also improve health outcomes. In addition to these new projects we will continue to run fabulous cookery sessions allowing tiny tots to explore textures and tastes for the first time, and helping teenagers learn where their food comes from and getting to grips with the idea of scrubbing off soil! We also have friendly courses for socially isolated older people allowing them to try new veg that they may not have cooked with before.  

We also have a Positive Minds service that helps people when they are struggling with their mental health. These clients often have a poor diet as result of their challenging circumstances, and choose to come along to our gardening and cookery courses to improve their well-being.  It gives you a real buzz to hear a volunteer say that their fridge at home is now stocked with affordable and chemical-free fresh veggies from our allotment where they have been helping out, and that they have felt inspired and more confident to cook with these vegetables as a result of coming to the cookery courses. 

The Harty Food innovation looks to tap into the localised food system in BS13 and offers ready-to-cook predominately plant-based dishes. These dishes will be accompanied by recipe cards to encourage people to replicate their favourite dishes at home. We believe that healthy and affordable ready-meals that use sustainable packaging have a place to reduce the need for multiple components to cook, thus using less fuel, reducing food waste, and offering food with an extended shelf life. 

Finally, our holiday hunger programmes which are run in partnership with local sporting activities for children in BS13 in the summer months are another great example of how we are working to reduce food poverty for those who receive free school meals during term times and who then have a substandard diet in the summer. 

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