We thought a grey wintery Monday would be a good time to connect, share knowledge and look forward to a new year of working together for Food Justice, so Feeding Bristol hosted its first event of the year with the Food Justice Network Winter Gathering on January 29th. We were welcomed by Docklands Community Centre in the heart of St Pauls, and the event was attended by over 40 individuals representing many of Bristol’s food organisations and projects.

Rising costs are continuing to put pressure on communities and worsen inequality in Bristol, and while it can feel like a never-ending challenge, we know that having a better-connected city increases our resilience to address food inequality. Coming together can remind us that we are not working alone, and gives us the opportunity to share our experiences, successes, expertise, and stories.  

Building resilient community networks

Developing local Food Justice Networks is part of Bristol’s Food Equality Strategy & Action Plan (FESAP), so the event began with a panel discussion with individuals who have worked hard to develop community networks. We were joined by:

Jasmine Tippett, resident of Knowle West and We Are More Afterschool Club Organiser

Lucy Holburn, Network Development Manager at Knowle West Alliance

Michelle Meredith, Community Development Worker at Black South West Network

Stacey Yelland, Chief Executive Officer at Eastside Community Trust

The panel were asked what the essential features of strong networks were, about lessons learned after Covid 19 lockdowns, how networks could be more inclusive and resident-led, and how to face challenges and tensions in networks. Here are some of their top tips!

  • Be reliable: always show up and be on time.
  • Spend time to ask what people actually want. If residents aren’t coming back to meetings, ask yourselves ‘why?’
  • You need to work on the network’s shared values and goals from the start and remind yourselves of them often.
  • Take steps to become more resilient to shocks and change, make sure you’re thinking of ways to be adaptable.
  • Make everyone a leader, then everyone brings their generosity to the network.
  • Go where the energy is!
  • If you’re a community organisation, embed food into several projects, not just one.
  • Building trust is essential, you have to do the groundwork to get to know people, their needs and their perspectives.

Community Food Mapping

After delicious snacks from Salha’s Sudanese Kitchen everyone took part in a Community Food Mapping activity. Guests were asked to input community spaces where people can cook and eat together, which generated a map with everyone’s contributions. This was to demonstrate how our collective knowledge and community-led resources are key to understanding Bristol’s food landscape.

Mapping is key part of FESAP because we need a better understanding of how, why and where people access food in the city. It can help us find gaps and allow us to share information about support that’s on offer. You can find updated information about food support in your local area on our website, visit: feedingbristol.org/support-in-bristol/community-food-support

Sharing our Food Stories

In the final session talked about the Food Leaders programme. This is a collaborative project led by some of Bristol’s leading food educators and chefs. Knowing that positive change is more likely to take place when learning happens within trusted communities and groups, a ‘train the trainer’ model was developed so more people could become food educators in the city.

Food Leaders is now available online – sign up here!

Food Leaders emphasises the importance of telling our food stories and sharing our experiences, so that we can celebrate being part of vibrant food communities where we can all learn from each other. Group discussions about our own food stories was a lovely way to end the session, reminding us that everyone needs the joy and connection that food can provide – and it’s one of the best ways of bringing us closer together and moving us closer towards Food Justice.

Save the date!

Want to take part in a Food Justice event? Join us for Food Justice Fortnight starting on June 24th, 2024! Keep an eye out on our social media platforms, or email info@feedingbristol.org to be kept in the loop.