Tag Archives: Community

Food insecurity and the cost of living crisis

Mali Sion Evans smiling standing in a forest with trees surrounding her.
Today’s guest blog is from Mali Sion Evans, Feeding Bristol Community Project Developer

When times are hard, having to choose between paying bills and eating is routine practice for some Bristol residents. Food should be a source of connection, celebration and comfort. But it’s becoming a cause of stress and anxiety for many people during the current cost of living crisis.

1 in 8 households in Bristol’s most deprived areas are experiencing food insecurity and by all predictions this is likely to increase substantially over the coming months.

Vulnerable groups and communities are considerably less protected when it comes to economic shocks, we are witnessing an increasing number of individuals and families being affected.

Bristol, as this map shows, has inequality of access to food. Seeing the numbers of greengrocers and cafes in some areas of the city, you would struggle to believe that food banks were commonplace in adjacent wards. The areas that are most and least effected by the cost-of-living crisis exist side by side, hiding food insecurity in plain sight.

A new and emerging crisis

Public awareness of food poverty has increased significantly in recent years, but so has the use of emergency food aid such as food banks. In the first 11 weeks of lockdown, the number of people receiving emergency food support in Bristol rose by 400%. Free school meal applications increased by 250% in the same period.

This was an unparalleled crisis which initiated an extraordinary response; we saw Bristol’s true spirit. From community centres to cafes, farms to mosques, people all over the city set out to bring food to their neighbours and provide lifelines for those who needed support.

The word ‘unprecedented’ was used repeatedly over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. But here we are again; volunteer shortages, increasing energy costs, rising inflation and supply chain disruptions are creating a perfect storm. This will intensify food insecurity to unprecedented levels across Bristol, yet again.

Feeding Bristol event, volunteers give out food to residents who need support. The table is full of canned food and fruit being handed out to those who need.
Feeding Bristol

Working together is Bristol’s greatest asset

Hundreds of people all over the city are working hard to try and ease the impact of this crisis. Food banks and community food services are already doing their best to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Dozens of organisations are working together to find ways to extend support and encourage social action. And hopefully, we’ll see this city’s caring and generous energy galvanise to support fellow Bristolians, yet again.

Having published the Food Equality Strategy this summer, Feeding Bristol is currently working with Bristol City Council to develop a Food Equality Action Plan. The aim is to co-create a document of workable actions with citizens, organisations and local authority so that food equality can become a reality in Bristol.

Share your ideas and help shape the Food Equality Action Plan by completing this short survey.

Visit Bristol City Council’s cost of living support webpage for more information about food services, plus advice on benefits and financial help, employment and skills and mental health and wellbeing.

How can I access food support?

How can I save money on food?

  • Plan ahead – buying food for the week helps to cut down on impulse buys
  • If you can, buy big bags of rice, pasta etc – they can be cheaper per 100 grams than smaller bags
  • ‘Reduced to clear’ foods can help save money – but think about when/how you’ll eat them before you buy
  • One of the best ways we can save money on food is to reduce food waste. The Love Food Hate Waste website has tips on how to store food and cook with old food
  • Buy what you need – buying loose fruit and vegetables can help you save money by purchasing only what you’re going to eat

What can I do to help in my community?

200 years of St. George’s Bristol

Samir Savant smiling with his arms crossed. Wearing a blue three piece suit and glasses
Today’s blog is from Samir Savant, CEO
of St George’s [photo: Frances Marshall]

I have been CEO of St George’s Bristol since last September and have loved it so far. Everyone here is so collaborative, I want to thank Bristol for making me feel so welcome!

St George’s started life as a church in 1823, and we celebrate our 200th anniversary next year. In the 1990s we became an independent charity and vibrant venue for music and spoken word. Our famous acoustics attract artists of all genres from across the globe, and this August we hosted the first ever BBC Prom to be held in Bristol.

Only 40% of our income comes from ticket sales, so we are reliant on venue hire, hospitality and our donors for the rest. In a typical year we present 300 events reaching audiences of more than 100,000, and hundreds more through our work in local communities. 

I wanted to write more about these lesser-known projects with specific charities and community groups, as we are rightly proud of this side of our work. Through our Learning and Participation programme, we engage with hundreds of young people and families through our Mini-Beats and Wild Words events, and our partnerships with Bristol Beacon and Preludes.

Through the support of the Cavatina Trust, we give out dozens of free tickets for specific concerts to young people aged 8 – 25. We also work with young people of Somali heritage in Easton, supporting them to connect with their culture through music and drama in weekly workshops led by a Somali youth leader. 

The image shows the outside of the St. George's building, four main columns on the outside. The front of the image shows the stairs leading up to it.
St George’s Bristol [photo: Jake Janes]

A focus for us is Cosmos, our children’s singing project with young people we would not otherwise reach in Knowle West. This is a voluntary after-school choir which is non-auditioned and has been running for over 12 years. The commitment and talent of the children is incredible, and we are pleased to facilitate performance opportunities for them. Last Christmas they sang at Bristol Zoo, in previous years they have sung on the SS Great Britain, and we arrange travel so that their parents/carers can come along too.

 As someone who grew up singing, I know how important being in a choir can be, and the sense of belonging to a friendship group with a common aim at a formative age.

Our work also extends beyond music and beyond the city of Bristol. We are proud to work with a range of charity partners doing vital work across the city, including Women’s Work Lab, Prodigal Arts, Bristol Pride and Stepping Up Bristol. We offer free and discounted spaces for their events, training, and meetings as well as work placements and career guidance. 

The image shows the inside of St George's Bristol. the old church has a white roof and walls. the photo is taken looking down upon rows of chairs that are facing a stage.
The inside of St. George’s [photo: Jake Janes]

We do all of this because we genuinely believe that music matters and that listening to or taking part in music genuinely changes us for the better. The Cosmos choir is a great example of how singing can give young people skills and confidence, and there are nationwide examples of how regular, active music-making can transform educational outcomes.

Music is also vital for our health and well-being. Research conducted globally over decades has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, and memory. We are working with the NHS and charities working with older people to bring live or streamed music into hospitals and care settings to help promote good mental and physical health.

For our 200th anniversary next year we will throw open the doors of St George’s to everyone and present a varied series of concerts and events, many of which will be free, welcoming all communities to our beautiful space. If you have never been to St George’s before, please visit us soon, even if it is just to spend time in our gardens, a haven of peace away from the bustle of Park Street, or to enjoy a coffee in our lovely new extension, you will be very welcome.