Right in our backyard in Bristol, restaurants, farmers, community food organisations and producers are coming together to help support efforts to create alternate routes to market so as to maintain access to healthy and sustainable food amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bristol Food Union was launched in response to the Government lockdown when Boris Johnson closed restaurants, pubs and cafes across the UK from 20 March, to enforce social distancing. While there is no question that the lockdown is essential to keeping the public safe, the impact on our food and farming communities is only just beginning. Many small food producers have seen their livelihoods disappear overnight. In response, and as a way to continue to supply the city with healthy and sustainable food, the collaboration formed.
The Bristol Food Union website provides a list of independent food stores that are still open and are able to provide a route to market for farmers, growers and food producers in the local area. This means that citizens in Bristol are able to buy healthy food and support local businesses. They outline their purpose by saying: ‘Helping our food and farming communities to survive this crisis is essential and immediate work. Many businesses are not going to make it. Our nation’s food security matters more now than ever before. We cannot afford to lose them.’
Part of their campaign was also a crowdfunding page to help provide meals to frontline workers and vulnerable adults. The group reached its target of £20,000 in one week alone, demonstrating high levels of community support. As a result of the funding, Bristol Food Union has created six secure production kitchens in closed restaurants around the city and are supporting Caring in Bristol in feeding 500 homeless citizens who have been moved into sheltered accommodation. Additionally, they are providing meals for the vulnerable in the Chew Valley area and delivering weekly food provisions to 100 vulnerable adults who have recently left the foster care system. However, they want to do even more and are currently devising a plan to provide a hot meal daily to workers at Southmead Hospital, who are on the frontline of the COVID-19 response.