Launch of the Sustainable Food Cities Network

12 October 2011

An event in Bristol today [12 October] sees the launch of a UK-wide Sustainable Food Cities Network which will help cities develop and promote healthy and sustainable food programmes. The Network will be crucial as these cities work to tackle a growing epidemic of diet-related ill-health and the negative economic and environmental impacts of the UK’s current food system. It will be supported by the Soil Association alongside a number of other national NGOs including Co-operatives UK, FareShare, Food Matters, Garden Organic, Plunkett Foundation, and Sustain.

The event, which is organised by the Soil Association in partnership with Cardiff University and Bristol City Council, will be bringing together representatives from 20 UK cities including Brighton and Hove, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Leicester, Manchester, Plymouth and Sheffield.

One of the key discussions will be how to get policy-makers more committed to supporting healthy and sustainable food. The event will also look at how best to measure the positive social, economic and environmental impacts these programmes are having, both locally and globally.

What does a sustainable food city look like?
This will depend on the circumstances and opportunities in each city, but the overarching aim is to give as many people as possible the knowledge and skills to access affordable healthy and sustainable food in a way that tackles food poverty and diet-related ill-health; promotes local economic prosperity for farmers and food businesses; and minimises the negative environmental impacts of food in terms of climate change, biodiversity loss and waste.

Tom Andrews, Soil Association Programmes Director, said:
“A number of pioneering cities have recognised the key role food can play in dealing with some of today’s most pressing problems – obesity and diabetes, food poverty and waste; climate change and biodiversity loss; clone towns and declining prosperity - and are making healthy and sustainable food a top priority in their efforts to help local communities. This event is about showcasing some of the amazing work being done in cities across the UK and hopefully inspiring others to embark on a similar journey.”

Professor Kevin Morgan, Chair of the Bristol Food Policy Council, said:
“Having lagged behind places such as North America and Europe, there are now UK cities leading the way in terms of the breadth and innovation of their food programmes. While the focus of these programmes varies depending on local circumstances and priorities, there are some common themes emerging - around the need to really engage and involve the public; on the power of truly collaborative cross-sector partnerships; and in recognising the fundamental link between health and sustainability.”

Dr Roberta Sonnino, from the School of City and Regional Planning at Cardiff University, said:
“There is a growing body of international evidence that integrated city-wide food programmes are a good way of delivering long term benefits to individuals and communities. Our challenge now is to find the best way to effectively measure the positive impact these programmes are having on society, on the economy and on the environment in the UK and to ensure local and national policy-makers are fully aware of just what can be achieved through food.”

Barbara Janke, leader of Bristol City Council, said:
“One of the unique features of Bristol is that it is a city in the heart of a food producing area. Access to wholesome and delicious locally sourced food in a thriving modern city is something we value highly. We have much-loved markets, first class independent traders, a big desire to grow-your-own and leading organisations such as the Soil Association based here. It is fitting therefore that Bristol hosts the first meeting of this network and I look forward to sharing our experience and learning from other cities across the country.”


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