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Green Recovery Insights: Rebuilding a more resilient food system


In our latest Green Recovery Insights blog, Joy Carey of Bristol Food Network highlights the importance of creating a more resilient and healthier food system as part of a green recovery. She also explores the actions we can all take to make a difference in the short-term, and for the years ahead. 

Food is at the heart of both our city’s recovery and our longer-term quality of life. Over the next year and through the next decade, if we want to build Bristol’s food resilience, we must consider the big picture, identify priorities and do some important forward planning. The collective actions we can take now will stand us in good stead for the years ahead, if we continue to actively and consciously attend to building resilience into our food system.

In thinking about a food-related green recovery from COVID-19, there are immediate and longer-term challenges. The subject of food is, of course, more complex than just about what we eat.

In the immediate future, there are two urgent food-related challenges: Bristol’s food economy and household food security. Daily news reports cover numerous types of food businesses, particularly within the independent sector, hard hit by lockdown and on-going restrictions. Their survival is currently in the balance. As a key part of the local food economy, they not only provide the public with tasty food, but also workers with jobs and suppliers with markets.

The other major challenge is ensuring that ever-increasing numbers of hard-hit households are able to get enough good food to eat every day. The effective and inspirational community-led emergency food response we’ve witnessed is not a viable solution in the long term. Well-functioning supply chains, the maintenance of social safety nets and understanding impacts on the livelihoods of the people who provide food are three critical areas to address.

The way food is produced, processed, distributed and consumed around the world is unfortunately implicated in much of what we humans as a species have got very wrong, and with ever increasing catastrophic impacts. Poor diet-related health, loss of nutritional value in crops; high greenhouse gas emissions due to reliance on carbon-based inputs in agriculture and destructive land use; loss of natural habitat and diversity, species extinction… The list goes on and we can’t ignore this bigger picture.

The good news is that we can combine actions needed now for a green recovery here in Bristol with putting in place crucial building blocks for the next decade. Those same actions will help to both i) transform the food system for the better and ii) address climate change, the ecological emergency, our own health and wellbeing and create a better future for our children (all of which feature in Bristol’s One City Plan).

Multiple experts agree that the next ten years are critical and we need to start NOW. Each and every one of us has a role to play and can actually do something really positive. Individual actions may feel insignificant but collective action has significant impact.

What can you do?

We all have the power to influence change, individually and through collective action. There are everyday practical actions that all of us can take, and these can also be incorporated into food practices where you work.

  • Ensure you, and your organisation, chooses healthy, diverse, local and seasonal food
  • Use your own positive powers of influence in your organisation, networks and in conversations
  • Support food-related initiatives in your local neighbourhoods and communities
  • Learn to grow food at home and find space for growing at work – it’s surprising what can be achieved in even the smallest space
  • Respect food and the environment by wasting less; design out waste by seeing it as a resource

Bristol Bites Back Better

Soon to enter a new phase, Bristol’s collaborative ‘Going for Gold’ Sustainable Food City initiative will focus on a post-lockdown campaign ‘Bristol Bites Back Better’. As Bristol recovers from the immediate effects of the pandemic, this campaign will call on individuals and organisations to contribute to building a better food system that works for the future of our city.

  • Better for communities: a food system that is local – supporting the local food economy, maintaining diversity on our high streets and putting the power in the hands of community food initiatives to make food work for them.
  • Better for people: a food system for better health – enabling each one of us to cook from scratch, grow food for our own wellbeing, and ensure that we all have access to good food.
  • Better for planet: a food system where we all value food – reducing food waste and making the most of the food that we have, eating less meat and dairy, prioritising nature-friendly food and growing, and choosing local, seasonal food.

It’s time to build a resilient future through food. It’s time to build a food system that is greener, fairer, more resilient and healthier. So watch this space for more information and please get involved! It’s time for Bristol to #BiteBackBetter.

About the author

Joy Carey has lived in Bristol for 24 years, is an independent consultant in sustainable food systems planning, a founding Director of Bristol Food Network CIC and is currently strategic coordinator of Bristol Going for Gold.

Further information

Bristol Food Network supports, informs and connects individuals, community projects, organisations and businesses that share a vision to transform Bristol into a sustainable food city.

Food, News & Information, Blog, Green Recovery Insight
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