Today’s guest blog is from Ped Asgarian, Director of Feeding Bristol.
These are strange times that we are living through. The likes of which many of us have never experienced before. The pandemic has given many people a more stark exposure and understanding of the problems with our food system and the widespread issues of food insecurity and food poverty that exist within the city. This is a problem that has been worsening over the last decade, but one that we have the power to turn the tide on. We live in a city which has children going to school hungry, and where some households do not have the facilities to prepare and cook food, let alone the funds to pay for regular meals or fuel to cook with. The figures show us that over 14,000 children are eligible for free school meals and 23,000 households experience some form of fuel poverty in Bristol. This has only worsened since March 2020. We need to do better as a city.
Feeding Bristol is still a young charity. We only registered in March 2018, becoming one of the original ‘Feeding..’ Pilots in the UK. Our aims as a charity are to play a role in improving our local food system, enabling all citizens of Bristol the right to access nutritious and affordable food. Working in collaboration with a variety of organisations throughout the city, from Bristol City Council to grass-root, community led organisations, we want to make Bristol a beacon of Food Justice throughout the country. Actually, that should be globally. Bristol has all the ingredients to be a pioneer when it comes to our food system. We have amazing culture and diversity, a council that is open to and supports new approaches in the sector, and we have an innovate and collaborative culture throughout groups, organisations and individuals.
Feeding Bristol has been known for its work over the last three summers leading on the Healthy Holiday’s programme. The project has grown since its first inception, raising almost £300k in the last two years. Funds raised are used to enable organisations to deliver a combination of activities and food which has reached over 7000 children. The project has evolved from cooking projects, sandwiches and fruit, to include working with a wide variety of partners from chefs and restaurants, to play projects and youth groups, and young carers and FOOD Clubs. Over 70 organisations were involved in the delivery of the programme in the summer of 2020.
But Feeding Bristol is more than just the Healthy Holiday’s programme. We are working hard to facilitate systemic change of our food system and culture through innovative projects and ideas such as The Children’s Kitchen (where they teach children in early years settings about food, growing and seasonal eating) and supporting the Food Clubs model which works with Fareshare Southwest to provide affordable healthy food options for families in wards with the highest level of food insecurity. We also work take a lead on the Food Equality strand of the Going for Gold campaign, working with the council on the strategy and action plan for the next decade.
This is a unique moment in time where we can use the spirit of collaboration that has been demonstrated over the last 10 months, combined with the willingness of building something better, to begin to create a fair and just food system. We will continue to work for the betterment of Bristol’s citizens through a more representative and empowered food system, and we hope you will join us on that journey.