Here we celebrate a decade of the Bristol Food Policy Council, thank all those who contributed to its success and look forward, considering how its work will continue across the city.
“How we produce, trade, eat and waste food influences the most pressing issues facing us today: from climate and ecological breakdown to human health and well-being, from poverty and justice to animal welfare.”
So Joy Carey, Bristol Food Network director and member of the Food Policy Council, reminded us when we celebrated our Gold Sustainable Food Places Award in June 2021. For 10 years, the Food Policy Council (FPC) has been striving to put ‘Good Food’ onto the agenda in Bristol, and to keep it there. Now, in the wake of the success of the city’s ‘Going for Gold’ campaign, the FPC is passing on the baton.
In 2010, the seminal ‘Who Feeds Bristol’ report was commissioned, exploring the behind-the-scenes system that provides a million meals a day for the city. Awareness of its importance – for the health and livelihoods of people and for the natural world – was growing. Out of this work came the proposal for a Food Policy Council – the first of its kind in the UK – to be chaired by Professor Kevin Morgan of Cardiff University, an internationally known figure in the world of food.
In 2011 the FPC was formed, bringing together key people from different parts of the food system, and enabling them to use their influence and networks to champion ‘Good Food’ for the city. The FPC’s definition of ‘Good Food’ is that it must be more than just tasty, healthy and affordable, it must also be produced and distributed in a way that is good for nature, good for workers, good for animal welfare, good for local businesses and good for community.
A decade of driving positive change
From 2011 to 2021, the FPC brought people together in support of its vision. Through events, it facilitated conversations, immersed people in experiences and allowed space for ideas to grow. A monthly subgroup met to focus on communications, identified early on as a key element of the FPC’s strategy.
The FPC worked closely with Bristol City Council, but its unique position as an independent body gave it licence to challenge the status quo, and to lobby persistently on planning and policy in order to drive forwards the local good food agenda.
Notable achievements for the organisation include preparing and submitting the successful Silver Sustainable Food City application on behalf of the city in 2016.
The FPC also created a wealth of content. It was responsible for writing and commissioning innovative reports, and films, including the 2013 Good Food Plan for Bristol and its 2015-18 Good Food Action Plan, all of which are available online.
Bristol Going for Gold
Working closely with Bristol Food Network, the FPC was responsible for bringing together people and organisations with differing perspectives and priorities so that all could commit to supporting the bid for Gold Sustainable Food status. Out of this work came the Bristol Going for Gold initiative, and the Good Food Alliance to make the shared working more visible.
By 2019, the Going for Gold initiative was forging ahead, with strong support from Bristol City Council. The FPC was able to take a less active role, focussing mainly on its work to influence planning policies and decisions, handing oversight of Going for Gold over to a new steering group, chaired by Deputy Mayor Asher Craig. The steering group fulfilled a similar role to the FPC, bringing together representatives from all sectors of our food system, and seeking through collaboration to amplify all of the good things already going on in the city’s food movement. Bristol Food Network, now a Community Interest Company, ran the communications and coordination of the bid, alongside Bristol Green Capital Partnership and Resource Futures.
In 2020, the pandemic disrupted our way of life and removed the ability to share immersive experiences or attend in person events – always a cornerstone of the FPC’s work. The Going for Gold initiative was reinvented under the Bristol Bites Back Better campaign, reflecting the need to take urgent action to rebuild a food system for our environment, economy, health and communities.
In June 2021, Bristol celebrated its recognition as a Gold Sustainable Food City. Members of the FPC played an instrumental role in this from behind the scenes, a fitting accolade after a decade of driving forward such positive work in the city.
Where do we go from here?
As we emerge from the pandemic, the key stakeholders in good food in the city are coming together again. The Bristol Good Food 2030 framework and action plans will build on the achievements of the FPC and the Gold award and, in what by many has been termed the decisive decade in tackling some of the biggest societal challenges facing us all, should enable Bristol to meet the food system ambitions set out in its One City plan.
As we say goodbye to the Food Policy Council and welcome in the new Bristol Good Food 2030 project structure, we would like to express our gratitude and praise to the many people who were instrumental in the FPC’s pivotal work for the good of our city.
Simon Wood and Angela Raffle, outgoing Chair and Vice-Chair of the FPC, sum it up like this: “When the FPC started we had no idea how much positive change would happen in ten years. There is still much to do, but Good Food is now definitely a ‘thing’ in Bristol, and all the FPC members are happy to have helped us move a little bit further, towards a healthy, fair, sustainable and resilient food system for everyone.”