On 26 June a handful people of Bristol-based people were lucky enough to be at the annual ‘Sustainable Food Cities Network’ conference. This is a collaboration of 55 cities (and growing) striving to improve all aspects of food, based on 6 principles which can be seen here:

http://sustainablefoodcities.org/keyissues

Bristol was a founder member of the Network in 2012 and is one of only 3 cities to attain the Silver Award (alongside Brighton & Hove, and London).

The conference in Cardiff was a real treat – so many committed people doing good work from all over the UK, and a powerful mix of delegates from different backgrounds – Councillors and officers from local authorities, grass roots campaigners, growers and activists, academics, independents, and senior staff from various support bodies working together, sharing platforms and experiences – learning from each other what is working in different parts of the UK, and helping to support and catalyse further action.

Amid the ongoing fiasco of Brexit, and with Government barely managing to keep its head above water, we heard from cities and activists making great strides towards SFC bronze status, and 5 new awards were announced at the conference for Aberdeen, Carlisle, County Durham, Oldham and Oxford. We learnt about new distribution and marketing models, healthy school meals provision, and the importance of being persistent in building relationships with local authorities – being “seen to be seen”, collaboration and building a compelling narrative were all repeatedly heard.

And Bristol?  As you may be aware, Bristol City Council, The Food Policy Council and many others are now signed-up to going for the SFC Gold award over the next 2 years. Bristol’s Deputy Mayor Cllr Asher Craig spoke passionately in one of the workshops about her commitment to getting things done. The fact that Cllr Craig is on-board and fully committed to Going for Gold – and speaking about this in public – makes a major shift in Bristol and sends a powerful message to other towns and cities – progress in the food arena will only come about when there is a synergy between all the interested stakeholders – and a major building block is genuine local authority understanding and support. And, it is worth mentioning that when asked what had convinced her to put her weight behind the Going for Gold campaign she said a meeting with Bristol’s pioneering food champion, Joy Carey and hearing from her of all the grassroots action taking place across the city and region. So, all credit to Joy.

What next?  From my perspective the Going for Gold campaign is a key plank in taking the broader food agenda forward, as will be the inclusion of the food, health and well-being strands in the One City Plan, currently being drafted. There is also the Milan Urban Food Policy Framework that 167 cities around the world are signed up to – Cllr Asher Craig has indicated she is keen to sign up to this on behalf of Bristol in October.

We still need far more attention to good local food – in all its aspects – from food deserts to food poverty, to supply, dynamic procurement and of course growing, processing and distribution. If Bristol is to really become a pioneering food city we also need to see support for more local groups and small business growing food as a contribution to food security, education, and health and well-being as well as economic development and job creation. My hope is that Bristol will also become a pioneer in a new Urban Agriculture support network which I and colleagues are currently exploring – which will be a complementary strand in parallel with the Sustainable Food Cites agenda as it develops over the next few years.

You can call me an idealist, an optimist or whatever you like: but things don’t change without effort, and Bristol is at the cutting edge – let’s work together to keep moving ahead.

Jeremy Iles
Director
Green Future Associates CIC
www.greenfuture.org.uk
07950 266 389

You can see more about the conference and download the presentations at:
http://sustainablefoodcities.org/about/sfcconference2018