As one of the wealthiest cities in the UK, Bristol has an astonishing 14,250 – 22 per cent – children eligible for free school meals. A year ago, this number was 11,500 – demonstrating a growth that we as a city need to do more to prevent and reverse.
Not everyone in Bristol can guarantee that their family will have a healthy and tasty meal every day.
When we consider our right to food (a concept that I personally hadn’t even thought about until a few years ago – but one that is critical to highlight), it can raise a high level of emotion no matter which socioeconomic group you fall in.
But why does it drive so much emotion? What many of us can’t relate to, those of us who have never struggled with the decision of either cooking dinner for the family or turning the heater on in the middle of winter, is that not everyone has the resources, access or skills to make decisions from the range of choices that we would expect.
Food insecurity isn’t a binary issue. There aren’t only two groups of people that exist – those who can independently feed themselves, and those who cannot.
The factors that prevent everyone from regularly eating well is endless. For example, access to food isn’t simply about proximity to a grocery store. When you start including the number of people per household, the household income, disabilities, health issues, store opening hours and access to a car or public transport.
The way we tackle these issues in order to help our communities, must be specific to those needs, but done in a way that resolves the underpinning cause.
So, what is Feeding Bristol trying to achieve? We believe that everyone in Bristol should have access to nutritious and affordable food, and have the skills and knowledge, and that they are empowered to eat healthily. Ultimately, our mission is for more people to be able to independently achieve this.
Bristol is a food proud city and we collaborate effectively at an organisational level. There are a huge number of people working behind the scenes in trying to help respond to food needs of our city.
In the 2019 summer school holidays, our Healthy Holidays programme worked with 160 different organisations in supporting the provision of 53,000 meals to less advantaged children. The collaboration between the third, public and private sectors, relationships which really blossomed last summer, has been growing. We are one city, and the way we are working together reflects this.
Over the last two years, Feeding Bristol has taken on the role of providing strategic support in tackling food insecurity across Bristol. This is a unique role for a charity, and one that we don’t take lightly.
We pride ourselves on adding value to the network of local organisations supporting those families at a grass-roots level. But more importantly, we recognise each organisation’s role in achieving this. None of us can do this alone, and nor do we try to.
The confronting fact is this: food insecurity is getting worse in Bristol. The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly impacted our city. Nevertheless, the framework of collaboration and partnership within Bristol allowed us all to come together and support those in most need.
We’re also a couple of weeks into the 2020 summer school holidays. A time of year that can be very stressful for families experiencing food insecurity.
This year, we are again working with local partner community organisations in providing a healthy holiday for our city’s children in need.
We are currently asking for those who can support financially, to please give to our fundraiser. This will help us reach as many children as possible these summer holidays.
After these summer holidays, children will hopefully be going back to school. But the certainty of everyone in Bristol having a daily healthy and tasty meal will still not be there. We will continue to work hard in increasing the number of families in Bristol that can independently support themselves. It’s a long road ahead.
Maurice Di Rosso is director of Feeding Bristol.
Main photo: FareShare South West