The Children’s Kitchen – recipes in 16 languages

Today’s guest blog comes from Jo Ingleby, Director of The Children’s Kitchen

Image: Eliza Moreland

The Covid-19 pandemic has created many new challenges for our community and has worsened pre-existing issues of poverty and inequality in Bristol. Food insecurity is one of the greatest of these issues, and we have seen rising numbers of people accessing foodbanks and Food On Our Doorstep (FOOD) Clubs across the city. The Children’s Kitchen is a Feeding Bristol project which focuses on encouraging children to explore, cook, grow and eat fresh food. We work collaboratively with partners 91ways, Square Food Foundation, Travelling Kitchen and Incredible Edible Bristol to bring food education into communities where families are experiencing food insecurity. We are linked to the Bristol FOOD Clubs held in Community and Early Years settings – run by Family Action with food supplied by FareShare South West. During lockdown this grew from five clubs to 14, providing affordable food to families every week in areas including Hartcliffe, St Pauls, Southmead, Knowle West and Barton Hill.

Image: Eliza Moreland

Pre-lockdown The Children’s Kitchen was working in Nursery Schools and FOOD Club settings to encourage children aged 2 to 4 to explore fresh produce and grow it on-site. Since lockdown we have adapted to the new challenges. During lockdown we produced a collection of simple, affordable and healthy recipes which have recently been translated into 16 languages as video subtitles and printable PDF files, which has been done pro bono by Lionbridge. We aim to celebrate diversity and break down the barriers that prevent people accessing resources. Alongside these recipes are cookery videos made with Bristol community cooks and their children, cooking the dishes they make at home together. These multicultural recipes have been printed as a booklet given to 750 families over the summer, along with spices, oil and other ingredients. For the Healthy Holidays programme, we took these recipes ‘on the road’, hosting over 40 Family Food Sessions across Bristol in outdoor community spaces with community cooks.

Image: Eliza Moreland

Food insecurity is rising in the city and nationwide and is going to worsen as the impacts of Covid-19, and the coming winter, grow. Initiatives like FOOD Clubs and Feeding Bristol give people access to food, and not just for a few weeks but for long-term, sustainable support. Facing the challenges of an uncertain future, we need to work collaboratively, in a focused and citywide way to tackle poverty and food insecurity.

You can help by volunteering time, money or fresh produce and raising awareness of existing work in the city. Visit the Feeding Bristol website to see how to get involved and to share the translated recipes and videos: https://www.feedingbristol.org/

More than bricks and mortar

Today’s blog comes from Cllr Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Families and Homes (and Lead Member for Children’s Services).

Housing is one of great challenges in our city and wider society right now. Affordable housing, quality of housing, security of housing and ending homelessness are all key issues for us in Bristol, and Mayor Rees has repeatedly clarified the commitment of this administration to build 2,000 new homes (800 of which are affordable) per year. We are on track to hit that target next year, and in doing so, have delivered 150 new council homes with over a thousand more in the pipeline. 

My intention, in combining responsibility for housing with my other cabinet duties for families and children’s services, is to ensure that people are at the heart of the work we do. It sounds simple, but managing our housing stock, homelessness and our relationship with private landlords and tenants is about building an effective system that is fair and that benefits residents while also being mindful of their individual stories. 

The ongoing impact of COVID-19 and lockdown means a ripple effect of serious economic and societal problems. As I write, many people need a safety net as they navigate the consequences of the pandemic, and a possible second wave, on their families and livelihoods. 

Despite this, yesterday (Sunday), the ban on evictions that was designed to protect renters during the pandemic was lifted. This means that at a time when so many families are concerned about their health, finances and the imminent end of the furlough scheme, there is a new concern. 

Housing charity Shelter have warned that as many as 322,000 renters may have fallen into arrears during lockdown, with more economic uncertainty to come for many families. 

Despite protests from housing charities, councils and opposition parties, including Bristol MP and Shadow Minister for Housing, Thangam Debonnaire, the government has decided to go ahead with the end of ban.  

What does this mean for renters? Some protections are still in place, especially for those facing eviction because of rent arrears. 

  • Landlords need to give 6 months’ notice of eviction (except in cases of Anti-Social Behaviour or Domestic Abuse where the notice period can be shorter)
  • Most landlords will be issuing Section 21 orders, meaning they will have to get permission from the court to evict.

Bristol City Council is the landlord for 30,000 people. Evictions are a last resort, and this will continue to be the case; except in cases of domestic abuse and serious and repeated anti-social behaviour. We are also committed to helping people maintain tenancies in the private rental sector, and can provide helpful advice and guidance to help try to resolve issues and get the tenancy back on track for landlords and tenants.

If you are a landlord considering commencing eviction proceedings, please email private.renting@bristol.gov.uk to see if we can explore other avenues.

If you are a tenant that needs advice, then support and information is available via Shelter, Citizens Advice Bureau and our Housing team here at Bristol City Council

Equal Pay Day

Today’s blog comes from Cllr Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Finance, Governance and Performance.

“There can be no doubt that this afternoon we are witnessing another historic advance in the struggle against discrimination in our society, this time against discrimination on grounds of sex.”

Barbara Castle, introducing the Second Reading of the Equal Pay Bill in Parliament, 9 February 1970

Today marks the first International Equal Pay Day, recognising the longstanding efforts towards the achievement of equal pay for work of equal value. This is a longstanding mantra within the Labour movement, enshrined in law through landmark legislation such as the Equal Pay Act of 1970, and the Equality Act of 2010.

Yet we know that without concerted effort from employers, local and national government, we risk losing ground in the progress towards gender and racial equality, and in recognising the equal value of work done by disabled people.

Illustration by Verónica Grech

The government announced in March that as a result of Covid-19 there will be no expectation for employers to report their gender pay gaps for the 2019/2020 financial year. The publication of pay gaps in and of themselves doesn’t necessarily tell us whether equal pay is being delivered. There are many structural issues which can produce pay gaps on the basis of gender, ethnicity and disability such as a predomination of men in senior roles, without necessarily entailing that people are being paid differently for the same work. However, publication of this data is an important way to measure equality within organisations and in our society more broadly.

In addition to this data gap, we know that Covid-19 has already had an impact on gender equality. Mothers are 23% more likely to have lost their jobs than fathers, more likely to work in lower paid and less secure jobs than men, and more likely to pick up additional burdens of childcare as children were kept away from school and nursery over lockdown. Evidence suggests that BAME women face particularly acute pay gaps, with research from the Office of National Statistics indicating, for instance, that Bangladeshi and Pakistani women experience an aggregate gender pay gap of 26.2%.

It is incumbent on all of us to use data-driven approaches to guarantee equal pay across our economy. Bristol City Council has not only published our average gender pay gap, but also pay gaps for ethnicity and disability within our organisation. While we are pleased to see these gaps narrowing, we know there is more to do to ensure equality of pay and opportunity within the council. We have brought in initiatives like Stepping Up, the Bristol WORKS programme and the City Leadership Programme to ensure that everyone in Bristol is able to take advantage of opportunities across the public and private sector, regardless of their gender, race or whether they are disabled.

We are determined that Covid-19 doesn’t impede our progress towards delivering equal pay in Bristol. That is why in our One City Statement of Economic Renewal, we have made explicit commitments to inclusive economic growth and to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals through our city’s recovery from coronavirus (this includes the goals of Gender Equality and reducing inequality within and between countries). We also reaffirm our commitment to our One City Plan goal to eliminate all ‘pay gaps’ in our city, across all private and public sector organisations, by 2045.

Rewards and realities of fostering teenagers

Today’s blog comes from Alex, foster carer for teenagers.

“Yeah, whatever” is a response I’ve heard many times over the last two years of fostering teenagers – and growing up, many of us have probably heard similar things from our parents or carers, including:

“You need to be in by 9.30pm.”
“If you don’t have breakfast, you’ll be hungry later.”
“Can you pick up your wet towel from the bathroom floor?”
“Your teacher said you didn’t attend your afternoon lesson.”

I remember when I was a teenager and I responded to my Mum’s questions with the same phrase, “yeah, whatever”. We have all been there – staying out later than we should, leaving mess all over the house or missing a few lessons at school. But, the difference is, many of us had parents or others looking out for us and boundaries were put in place, helping to guide us through these difficult years. And what did we try to do with these rules? We pushed and pushed until there was an argument, ignored our parents for a few days and then made up, like nothing ever happened.

Fostered teenagers are just like any teenagers. They might try to push the boundaries and make some mistakes, just like many of us did in the past, but that shouldn’t mean they don’t get our support. They want independence and may like to do things their own way. But just like all of us at this age, what they need most is to feel safe and listened to. 

They also have similar challenges to other young people their age – school, relationships, social media and hormones to deal with. But they also have complex emotions as a result of their past experiences or traumas, which may cause challenging behaviour sometimes. There’s no way of skating around it. Even just coming into care is traumatic, let alone dealing with the circumstances of why they are there.

That’s where me, or you as a potential foster carer come in. We all find things challenging from time to time and just need a little extra help from those around us. What’s important as a foster carer is that you are there, no matter what, to support them if they are going through a hard time, help them to manage their emotions and simply provide a safe place to live.

To be a foster carer, it doesn’t matter what your age is, your relationship status, gender or whether you own a home or not. It’s what you can offer a young person that counts. For me, I know I’m pragmatic, unflappable and patient, as well as able to set boundaries for those who need it most. What young people in care need is stability, someone to be there for them, to sit, to listen and to not pass judgement. This matters the most.

Of course, fostering teens comes with its challenges. One day I can have a teenager scream “I hate you,” the next day we will be playing FIFA together. I’ve had young people trash rooms, girls coming home late after visiting friends and I’ve been called every imaginable swear word. Sometimes I think – why do I bother? – but, and it’s a big but, I know why I bother. Fostering also comes with huge rewards. The positive impact you can make on a young person’s life far outweighs the challenges. I know that even when it feels difficult and we are going through a rocky time, the fact that a young person who has only known me for a short period of time is still coming home every night, is a good sign. I also know that when a teenager can show me they are upset, fed up and angry, the relationship we have is working and they trust me enough to share this with me.

It really is the simple things that mean so much. One of the most joyous things said to me since becoming a foster carer was from a teenage boy, after a weekend staying with me.  As he was leaving, he said: “Next time I stay over, can I cook again?” A month earlier, I surprised him by asking if he wanted to do a cooked breakfast. I had already bought the eggs and bacon, in the hope that he was up for it. He had no idea how to turn on the hob, let alone crack an egg. We had raw egg, burnt egg, nearly-made-it-on-to-the-toast-but-ended-up-on-the-floor-egg, and then finally a fried egg with some bacon on toast. And you know what, it was half decent and it was the start of what has become regular cooking at my house, which has helped build the connection and relationship between us. 

This may seem like a small, simple thing but, helping teenagers develop practical skills like cooking is part of what being a foster carer is about. Helping them grow into confident young adults, to be independent and have all the skills they need to build a brighter future. Those wins I treasure because looking after teens can be, well, lots of “yeah, whatever” – which I’m sure is how my parents felt twenty years ago – but it is also full of so many special moments.

37 teens and counting…Bring on the next!

If you are interested in becoming a foster carer for teenagers, please visit: www.bristol.gov.uk/fosterteens or speak to our fostering team on: 0117 353 4200 for an informal chat. We will answer all your questions and explain what it’s like to be a foster carer.

You can also follow Bristol City Council fostering on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about fostering.

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today’s blog comes from Cllr Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor with responsibility for communities, equalities and public health.

With so many unique challenges this year in particular, it has never been so important to look out for the mental health of ourselves and each other.  Today marks World Suicide Prevention Day, a day that encourages us all to reflect on the mental health struggles faced by those in our communities and to think about how we can better support each other.

Last week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shared that the UK’s suicide rate is now the highest it’s been for two decades.

It is a scandal that suicide remains the single biggest killer of men aged 20-49 in one of the richest countries in the world. The latest figures also highlight an increase in suicide rates among young people, and especially women under 25. This is deeply concerning, and we will continue to work with partners such as Off The Record and Bristol’s universities to ensure tailored support for young people is available.  

We know that the causes of suicide are complex and can be linked to past trauma, abuse or a major life event. It can affect anyone, but certain groups are more at risk, such as care leavers, those in our LGBTQI+ communities or people who have been through the criminal justice system.   

We also know that the majority of people who take their own lives will have struggled with their mental health for some time. They may have tried to get help. They may not have been able to access the support they needed at that time.  

Fundamentally, suicide is preventable.

It’s clear that mental health services have been historically underfunded by successive governments and there are countless stories of people who couldn’t access the help they needed in time. With everyone from the Royal family to public figures like Alastair Campbell shining a light on the issue of poor mental health, we must seize the moment and continue to push for adequate funding. 

As cabinet lead for public health, I’m only too aware that people in Bristol have higher levels of poor mental health than the England average. Acting to reduce this is a top priority for me. 

Thrive Bristol is our ten year plan for doing this. It focuses on how different parts of our city – such as our communities, our places of education and work, and our homes, can keep us mentally healthy, recognising that as little as 10% of our population’s health and wellbeing can be linked to access to healthcare.

Taking a One City Approach, we will continue working with teachers, employers and the voluntary sector to achieve our vision of a healthier and more resilient city.  

Our Director of Public Health, Christina Gray recently published her annual report, focussing on the broader concept of mental wealth. It focuses on how we can encourage thriving communities and social support, but also on the need to provide people with quality work and to invest in our young people.  It’s clear now that this work has never been so critical. 

The data published by the ONS tells us what happened in 2019, but we can’t ignore the toll that this year will have had on many people’s mental health. Although we are not yet clear if the pandemic will result in an increase in suicide, Samaritans research has found the pandemic to have exacerbated known risk factors for people who may already be vulnerable.

We are re-framing our work in light of the events of this year and renewing our focus on mental wellbeing as a key aspect of our recovery.

While we are working hard to ensure the people of Bristol can lead fulfilling lives, I’d also like to remind people to take a moment to check in with one another. Send a text, make a call, grab a coffee. Making time to talk and looking out for each other is something we can all do to take steps towards a future in which nobody feels they have no option but to take their own life.  

If you or someone you know is struggling, speak to someone, whether that be a friend, a colleague or a professional. Information on some of the organisations offering support in Bristol can be found below.  

Off the Record Mind 
Heads Together 
Samaritans 
NHS 

Late but still arriving – one more year for housing target to be met

Today’s blog post comes from Councillor Paul Smith, Cabinet Member for Housing.

This year we are on track to deliver 500 new affordable homes in the city. This would be the first time since 2010 that Bristol has brought forward this many new affordable homes (for comparison, in 2013/14, Bristol only built 102).

Yet while I’m proud of this achievement against the odds, I’m disappointed that it means our stretching ambition to build 800 affordable homes a year by 2020 has been delayed by a year.

Why haven’t we hit this target? Covid-19 has had the single most substantial effect on construction across the city and there have been additional causes of delay. So I want to set out why it’s next year, rather than this, that we’ll hit this deliberately ambitious target.

Firstly, we have high standards. We don’t count “pretend” affordable homes with a 10-20% market price discount (still out of reach for many families). We could have hit the target if we didn’t care about the long-term impact of what was being built, but we’ve always been clear we wouldn’t build poor quality homes just to hit a target. They have to be the right homes in the right place, built to a good design and technical standard. To take an example of one area which would by now have delivered 1,000 homes (with around 300 affordable): Bedminster Green. Sites kept changing ownership as instead of profiting from building homes, developers were making their money by selling on the land. To ensure good design and consistency and to respond to local concerns, we put in place a masterplan for the area. This has taken extra time but it has allowed us to filter out schemes that don’t meet our standards.

Secondly, our flagship scheme at Hengrove Park has faced a form of trench warfare: a call-in as soon as it was started, extended consultation to meet residents’ concerns, a councillors’-led challenge at planning committee, and when it finally received planning permission, it was referred by an opposition councillor to the Secretary of State to cause even more delay. All of these delays have an impact on our city. The longer it takes for large-scale developments like this to be approved, the longer families on our waiting lists have to wait for an affordable home to call their own.

Thirdly, some of our housing association partners have not moved as quickly with schemes as they had expected. One major association ground to a halt as the result of a merger, another got bogged down in a large development arguing about renewable energy requirements, another reached the end of its borrowing capability. Some have been excellent partners but unfortunately their collective delivery has not matched their aspiration to build 600 affordable homes per year by 2020.

As with all developments, there is also a story to tell for each one.   These can be as diverse as slow worms, bats, badgers, private ownership of access to sites, financing problems for some projects, Japanese knotweed, highways issues, legal disputes over land ownership and borders and asbestos buried in the ground.

However, we remain on track, optimistic and determined. We have built up a council housing programme of over 1,200 homes: the largest council housing development programme in this city for over 35 years. When we add the pipeline of projects our housing company Goram Homes is working on, this rises to almost 2,500 council homes to be built in Bristol. Housing associations are also picking up speed and their programmes are growing with plans for more than 1,500 genuinely affordable homes coming forward. We also now have the largest community-led housing sector in the country, with plans for around 600 homes at an advanced stage and ambitions for almost as many again in future years.

Have we missed the target during a global health pandemic? Yes we have. But if we have no further lockdowns, we will hit it next year. And with the work we have done over the last four years we will be able to sustain that level of development well into the future. That means so many more families will be able to find an affordable home here in Bristol.

Back to the classroom

For my family– and families across the city – this is a “back to school” week like no other.

For huge numbers of children across the city, this week is the first time they have stepped back into their school and classrooms since the beginning of lockdown in March. And for those children who have been able to attend school – whether because their year groups were permitted to return, or because their parents are key workers – this will be the first time they have been reunited with the rest of their class. I know that while many will be looking forward to reuniting with friends, nonetheless this will be a big adjustment for Bristol’s young people.

We recognise that lockdown posed unprecedented challenges for families, school staff and especially children. For me and my wife, it is a relief to have our children going back into the classroom in the knowledge they face an exceptionally small risk from Covid-19 – but qualified of course by a natural concern for the safety of their teachers and school staff. The council have therefore launched a hub of resources to support parents, carers and children as schools reopen to all students.

I know that despite the efforts to provide home learning for families, not all children have had the space or the resources to access and work through material provided by their schools. Getting children across the city back into the classroom safely has to be our collective priority. We know without this, many parents will not be able to return to work. And if children fall even further behind in their education, we will exacerbate inequality and disadvantage in our city, and the task of bridging that widened divide will stay with us for generations.

The challenge for us all then, across the city, has been to interpret changing government advice to get pupils back safely. It is why schools are a particular focus in our Local Outbreak Management Plan. There will be outbreaks as lockdown eases. That’s inevitable, it’s the way pandemics work. We must be sure we are able to identify any cases that emerge and isolate them. Our priority throughout has been to trust and support school leaders with their decision-making, and we will continue to do so, making sure that schools’ knowledge of their pupils, their local context, and their physical environment are central to our response.

While we have taken these steps to manage the health risk coronavirus poses, I know too that the economic effects of the pandemic have been felt by families across Bristol. I thank everyone in Bristol that has donated to our uniform drive – led by Cllr Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Families – ensuring pre-loved uniform is available for families that need items as their children return to the classroom. Please let your local ward councillor or me know if you need any unbranded items for your children. I also pay tribute to Cllr Anna Keen, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, and our Education team, who have secured funding from government to help parents who are struggling to meet the costs of uniform – families can apply for assistance via the Local Crisis Prevention Fund.

But our focus is not just on the immediate task of ensuring that children’s return to the classroom is safe. Yesterday at Cabinet we took a decision on a new programme of capital investment to increase the provision of specialist educational places to meet growing demand, and ensure that children with special educational needs and disabilities have access to high quality learning environments, designed specifically to meet SEND teaching needs.

We have continued to plan for the future for Bristol’s school system to ensure we have an education system fit for our changing and growing city.

Teens aren’t terrible, they’re just like we were

Today’s blog post comes from Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Young People, and Lead Member for Children’s Services.

Earlier this month we launched a new campaign calling for Bristol residents to foster young people – to help them reach their potential.

Teenagers in particular are in need of adults – of all ages and from all backgrounds – who may be able to help them through their already difficult years, by providing a safe, secure home and family life for them.

Childhood should be a fantastic time for young people when they explore their passions, form friendships and learn. But for many young people adolescence can be much harder because of their home circumstances and it is those children, young teenagers and almost-adult teens too, who need our support the most.

Teenagers in foster care are of course as diverse as the city we live in, just as you, prospective carers, are. You can foster if you rent your home or own your home, earn in a primary job elsewhere, or choose to foster exclusively. Fostering is for residents with their own passions, people with their own family commitments, for students and same-sex couples and low-income homes, too.

There also are many misconceptions about fostering, especially teenagers, which could leave them without the support of a loving home, care and attention. But fostered teenagers are just like any other teenagers. They might try to push the boundaries and make some mistakes – just like many of us did in the past – but that shouldn’t mean they don’t get our support.

Anne, a Bristol foster carer looking after teenagers, said: “We haven’t got children of our own and we were worried that we would find it difficult to foster teenagers. The reality was very different – after all, we were all teenagers once so, as foster carers, we could relate to some of their behaviours and the situations they were experiencing. Naturally, as a foster carer, you will have your ups and downs but what matters more is the rewards this experience brings you.”

I know becoming a foster carer is a big commitment. It’s scary and unknown. You probably have endless questions. What will my life look like with someone else in my home? What impact will fostering have on my family? What about work? It’s natural. And it won’t always be easy. But the rewards and the difference you can make to someone’s life will be enormous.

Because if you were experiencing difficulties, if you wanted nothing more than a safe and secure home, would you have wanted adults to take a chance on you when you were a teenager? Yes, there are differences between then and now: mobile phones instead of the family landline; TikTok instead of handwritten notes and playground gossip. Think of the past you and how grateful you’d have felt to have an adult to talk to. That’s all we ask of you. To consider if you can give a young person the confidence and life experience to grow into a healthy, happy and secure young adult with good future prospects.

We asked Martyna, a young care leaver, what she thought. She said: “I would encourage as many people as possible to become foster carers because they make the all the difference in helping young people who might not get the help otherwise.”

She added: “I went into care when I was 15 years old. I have had a few foster placements and I have learnt a lot from every family I stayed with. I have been with my current foster family for seven years. The most important thing they did for me was believing in me, believing that I can achieve what I want and that I will do well. Thanks to their support, I started to believe it too. I’m now a trainee social worker finishing my degree and I hope to be able to help others. The stability I have had in my current home was really important and helped me get to where I am today.”

If you are interested in becoming a foster carer, please visit www.bristol.gov.uk/foster or speak to one of our team members on 0117 353 4200 for an informal chat. We will answer all your questions and explain what it’s like to be a foster carer.

Follow Bristol City Council fostering on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about fostering teenagers.

Youth engagement for global action

Today’s blog comes from Bristol’s Youth Mayors, Alice Towle and John Wayman.

Young people are vital to democracy. Our voices are the ones that should arguably be listened to the most as we are the people that will have to live with the consequences of the decisions made by today’s politicians.

This is why International Youth Day is so important in highlighting the significance that young people’s voices can and should hold. This year’s theme for International Youth Day of “Youth Engagement for Global Action” seems particularly important at a time when young people from countries around the world are uniting to combat global threats such as systemic racism and the climate crisis. This theme seeks to highlight the ways in which the engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels is enriching national and multilateral institutions.

So today we wanted to highlight to you some of the ways your voices can be heard on these stages as young people!

The 3 levels of engagement the UN are focusing on this year are:

  • Engagement at the local/community level;
  • Engagement at the national level (formulation of laws, policies, and their implementation); and,
  • Engagement at the global level.

There are so many ways you can get involved with these both in the UK and abroad.

Bristol’s community-level youth engagement is arguably its strongest asset. We have a youth council with 33 elected and 5 co-opted members, who represent a wide variety of viewpoints and areas. You probably have one or more members in your school. We hold elections every two years, however due to covid our next elections are not going to be until 2022.

In the meantime there are loads of ways to get involved. Our campaign meetings are public meetings that anyone can get involved in and any young person in Bristol is more than welcome to attend. Moreover most of our members are very active on social media and if you contact them then they can take forward any questions that you may have to the rest of the council. In February we will be taking applications for the vacancies we will have for members who are leaving so if you would like to be a part of it then make sure to look out for how to apply.

Our incredible Youth Council gives opportunities to engage young people at the wider national and global levels:

On a national stage we have two amazing Members of Youth Parliament (MYPs) and 2 Deputy MYPs for Bristol. The UK Youth Parliament meets a few times over the year and discusses nationwide campaigns. Our MYPs are Molly and Lia. In addition, the Youth Mayors (that’s us!) have recently brought together a network of young mayors from across the UK so we can work together in championing young people’s views.

At a global level there is loads of stuff to be involved in especially through Erasmus+. One of the projects that the Youth Council have been involved in is an exchange programme with young people in Hannover. Over the course of the project we learnt about youth democracy in both of our countries, while also making some lifelong friends.

We are living in times where young people have never been so mobilised and our voices have never been louder. Let’s ensure that our shouts turn into meaningful change and new opportunities for dialogue with our leaders in communities, cities and countries.

For those getting A-Level and GCSE Results in the next two weeks: At BCYC many of us are also year 11s and year 13s, so we know that Covid-19 has had a massive impact on exams and your lives in general. We are interested to hear from you about how you’re feeling about this and want to represent your voices.

Good luck to all of you and remember that if you don’t gain the results you were looking for, then there are still lots of other options going forward.

Please get in touch with us if you would like to, on ywparticipation@bristol.gov.uk

BCYC

Growing food for health and wellbeing

Today’s blog comes from Ella Hogg, Volunteer Coordinator for Bristol Parks

Back in April, in the middle of some of the strangest times many of us have lived through, the Parks Service joined forces with local food growing groups across the city in a bid to not let any of the plants originally intended for retail, go to waste.

I was thrilled to organise this city-wide plant donation frenzy – across just three days we donated over 3,000 vegetable plants to local groups. Using the networks of our brilliant Communities Team and local intel from the allotment and parks staff, we reached groups in over 30 locations from all over the city. A true team effort resulted in happy faces and excitement for bringing on the incredible plants, all carefully sown by the Blaise Nursery team.

Whilst overseeing the deliveries (big shout out to Rod Pooley and Joe McKenna for being such a dream team on this!), I got to know the local community growing group just a few minutes’ walk from my own home. Since April we’ve pulled together to continually feed, water and bring on the plants donated to the growing group at Strawberry Lane community allotment. Sharing the load with a few dedicated families has meant that instead of spending the evenings watching Netflix or scrolling on social media (although some of this has definitely still happened!), my go-to has become to head down the allotment until sundown. Weeding, it seems, is the perfect mindful antidote to a day spent staring into your own face on Zoom. Seeing the little plants become big and fruitful has given me so much joy and hope, in what has felt at times a pretty dark and miserable period. Time in nature has never been so important.

The added benefit of all this time spent growing, nurturing and learning about “the best way to get a bumper crop of tomatoes”, has been that the harvest has been donated to people who really need it. We agreed a 50/50 split between the community group’s shared harvest and the Matthew Tree Project (MTP). Supporting MTP has allowed us to take even more pride in the juicy red tomatoes, bulging onions, rainbow coloured chard and many other nutritious veggies as they ripen. The MTP team collect a big box of goodness from us most Mondays, straight from the plot. Supporting them means families who are living in food poverty are able to access some of the freshest local produce around.

The best news is, we’re not in any way alone in our approach to sharing the harvest this year. I know from keeping in touch with many of the groups we donated food to, that others have also decided to spread the #BristolFoodKind message wider than their own community organisations. We’ve heard wonderful stories from Incredible Edible, New Roots, BS13 Kitchen Garden Enterprise and many others who are sharing their produce.

The final point to make, is that although allotments are amazing (I’ve discovered so many beautiful spaces through my role in the Parks Service this year!), you really don’t need much space to grow. The simple pleasures of planting seeds (even a window sill pot), giving them some water and love are massively valuable. If you don’t have an allotment or garden, there are parks with community growing projects who would welcome you with open arms. Possibly even a space in your own back yard which could be transformed?

Here’s to a continued love for time in green spaces, and to a hope that Bristol harnesses this energy for community growing to help build a better city for us all.