The One City Food Equality Strategy is ambitious in its aims and scope to provide Bristol with a more equitable food system. Designed with input from across the city, it reflects the desire to ensure that food is a right and not a privilege. It has been launched this week as part of Bristol’s first Food Justice Week – a week that highlights some of the great work happening across the city, and invites citizens to come and join in the conversation about our food system.
Over the past decade, the gap in household income between the richest fifth and the poorest fifth in our society has become larger than ever. According to the Office for National Statistics, almost a fifth of the country 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 make ends meet with much less. Bristol is no exception – in the most disadvantaged wards in the city, the average household income (adjusted for size and make-up of household to allow for relative comparison) for a family of four is only £17,000. 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.
Inequality exists on our doorstep in Bristol. Where the poorest family of four may earn £17,000, the average income can be up to £60,000 is 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 strategy was co-produced with over 70 groups and organisations from across Bristol, including 91 Ways; Bristol Food Union; Lawrence Weston Community Farm; Square Food Foundation; and Wellspring Settlement. It has been informed by community conversations with people who have lived experience of food inequality, the Food Equality Strategy identifies and tackles the issue of rising food inequality in our city. It is a legacy of the ‘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.