FOOD Club Coordinator for Bristol and the South West, Simon Green (pictured above), puts the work of Bristol’s FOOD Clubs into context, describing the network of organisations that have come together to make the project work.
I work for Family Action a national charity that in its own words “works to tackle some of the most complex and difficult issues facing families today – including financial hardship, mental health problems, social isolation, learning disabilities, domestic abuse, or substance misuse and alcohol problems.”
As a coordinator I am responsible for the smooth running of 16 FOOD Clubs (it stands for Food On Our Doorstep) here in Bristol and a further four across the region. Last week, Amy Goodwin and Zoe McPhail gave a wonderful overview of the impact of FOOD Clubs in East Bristol and I urge you to take a look at their Bristol Bites Back Better blog post – they are doing wonderful work, and I will attempt to put that work into some kind of context.
The programme is a partnership with Fareshare South West, Feeding Bristol and Early Years and Children’s Centres services and the clubs provide good quality affordable food, while reducing food waste. But they have become so much more than that. What began as weekly food offering has become a thriving example of how partnership can create a sustainable, resilient and, dare I say, sometimes radical and disruptive food programme.
Partnership has allowed the FOOD Clubs to blossom. Feeding Bristol as strategic partners have been instrumental in supporting growth, providing expertise and introductions and a healthy dose of realism. Fareshare provide the majority of the produce and have the experience, skill and patience required to deal with the logistics of shifting around four tonnes of surplus food to our clubs every week. The Children’s Centre staff have the insight into the needs of local families and provide the perfect way of connecting the food to the people who need it most.
As if that wasn’t enough partners, the Children’s Kitchen Food Sessions will help support FOOD Club families through family cooking lessons, food sampling and recipe and ingredients ideas. Incredible Edible Bristol will bring their growing expertise to encourage local participation and the freshest possible ingredients to family meals. The University of Bristol have researched the impact of the programme throughout lockdowns and beyond.
And, of course, there are our FOOD Club members who contribute so much, sharing ideas, top tips, good humour and support for others. However, there is no one person or organisation that makes FOOD Clubs so special, they need those many and varied partnerships and friendships to help build an effective local food community.
It is the “club” element that makes FOOD Clubs so important. They provide a place where families can share and learn about food and cooking, a place where people are comfortable to try new foods, discuss inspirational ideas and ask questions and hopefully a place where people can make connections, friends and progress.
Our work has only just begun, next we will be looking at expanding the growing potential of the FOOD Clubs by designing and building our own FOOD Club growing space and continuing to join forces with some of the most inspirational individuals and organisations that make this such an exciting and sustainable food city.
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.
Amy Goodwin, Community Development Worker at East Bristol Children’s Centre and Zoe McPhail East Bristol Children’s Centre Family Support Worker write for the Bristol Bites Back Better blog post about the impact of FOOD Clubs in East Bristol.
Read Director of The Children’s Kitchen Jo Ingleby’s blog post considering the importance of being able to cook a meal from scratch with simple, fresh, affordable ingredients. The significance of this essential skill has been highlighted during the COVID-19 crisis, as dealing with shortages of certain ingredients is – of course – far less stressful when we know how to easily adapt meals.