One City Food Equality Strategy – share your views

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Ped Asgarian

We hear from Ped Asgarian from Feeding Bristol in the latest Bristol Bites Back Better blog about the One City Food Equality Strategy, which is now open to public consultation. The draft strategy sets out five priorities (fair equitable access; choice; skills and resources; a sustainable local food system; and food at the heart of decision-making) and a set of strategic aims. Read on to find out how to share your views and opinions now.

The One City Food Equality Strategy sets out a vision for a more equitable food system in Bristol. Designed with input from across the city, it reflects the desire to ensure that food is a right and not a privilege.

Food equality exists when all people, at all times, have access to nutritious, affordable and appropriate food according to their social, cultural and dietary needs. They are equipped with the resources, skills and knowledge to use and benefit from food, which is sourced from a resilient, fair and environmentally sustainable food system.” – One City Food Equality Stakeholders, 2021

It is perhaps unsurprising that over the past decade, the gap in household income between the richest fifth and the poorest fifth in our society is now larger than ever. According to data from the Office for National Statistics website, almost a fifth of the UK population are now living in relative poverty – many of whom will likely be experiencing food insecurity.

If you take the recommended weekly spend on food, and the average spend on energy and rent, the average household needs to be earning approximately £20,000 per year. But families and households living below the poverty line in the UK struggle to earn anywhere near that much. Bristol is no exception – in the most disadvantaged wards in the city, the equivalised average household income (adjusted for size and make-up of household to allow for relative comparison) for a family of four is only £17k. As a consequence, the reality is that the poorest in our society – in our city – spend on average, around £55 per week on food to feed a family of four. This is about a third of the recommended spend required to achieve the necessary calorie and nutritional intake, let alone taking account of fair or sustainable provenance.

Inequality exists on our doorstep in Bristol. Where the poorest family of four may earn £17k, the average income can be up to £60k in the wealthier wards of our city. However, household poverty is not the only struggle we’re up against, as this disparity is also felt in the distribution of shops, restaurants, support organisations, access to public transport and opportunities for cooking and eating with others. COVID-19 in particular has shone a spotlight on the vast inequalities that exist in how we access nutritious, affordable and sustainably sourced produce – both nationally and locally. Coupled with the impact of Brexit on both our national food system and economy, if we do not act to ensure an equitable local food system is established, these inequalities will not only continue to exist but will intensify.

The Food Equality Strategy works to identify and tackle the issue of rising food inequality in our city. Co-produced with over 70 groups and organisations from across the city, and informed by community conversations with people who have lived experience of food inequality, it is a legacy of the Bristol Going for Gold Sustainable Food Places campaign, and builds on work and research that has been carried out over the last two decades in Bristol. Working alongside the Bristol Good Food Plan 2030, and other One City initiatives that tackle poverty and inequality, its ambitious aim is for a food system that is just and fair. Its scope is far reaching to ensure that food is placed in the heart of communities; looking at issues of access to nutritious, affordable and appropriate food, to our relationship with the land and food production, through to the need to ensure that food is considered as part of city planning and decision-making.

This strategy represents an opportunity for Bristol to take a national lead on tackling issues of food insecurity and food inequality more broadly, and with the help of everyone in the city, we have no doubt that this can be made a reality.

The strategy is now out for public consultation until 23 December, and you can share your views and opinions here.

By setting the wheels in motion now, together we can transform the future of food in our city, building in resilience over the next decade. So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

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