Report lays out Bristol’s climate-friendly food plans

August 22, 2023

The Bristol Good Food 2030 (BGF2030) Action Plan identifies steps to a more sustainable local food system.

Released this month, the Framework for Action outlines plans to bolster the local food economy, support urban growing, tackle food waste and ensure equal access to healthy food.

The ambitious document sets aspirational goals for 2030 that rely on future funding sources, alongside funded actions to take place over the next year.

The BGF2030 Partnership – comprising 100 organisations – was formed to build on the city’s Sustainable Food Places Gold Award of 2021, achieved after a decade of work to improve food systems following release of the Who Feeds Bristol? report in 2011.

Work has also been driven by the council’s Climate and Ecological Emergency strategies, both published in 2020.

The Framework stresses the need for greater resilience to buffer future climate impacts on food security, stating: “Our food system…is both deeply affected by the impact of, and a major contributor to, the climate and ecological emergencies.”

It comes with a caveat, from councillor Ellie King, that “The ambitions laid out in this plan will require change at a national level,” but government has made “slow progress” whilst local action is considered “awe-inspiring.”

Angelina Sanderson-Bellamy, BGF2030 Partnership chair and UWE associate professor of food systems, says, “Bristol is truly leading the nation and demonstrating the power of local food movements which are spreading across UK cities and rural communities.”

The Framework emphasises strengthening the local food economy, supporting local businesses and suppliers – those within 30 miles of the city – in order to reduce transport emissions while boosting local jobs and revenue.

Public and private sector procurement of local, sustainable foods should be “commonplace”, with environmental impacts considered throughout the supply chain.

Bristol City Council are due to set a per cent target for local supply by 2024, and “the majority” of events and festivals should adopt the policy by 2026.

BGF2030 expect the private sector to be encouraged by public sector action, where some progress has already been made. 43 per cent of UWE’s food spend was considered sustainable in 2021-22, and 52 per cent of their menu is plant-based.

At the University of Bristol, 89 per cent of food comes from local, regional or sustainable suppliers and 74% of food in catered halls is plant-based.

UWE and the University of Bristol have made climate-friendly changes to the food they offer, while North Bristol NHS has set up an allotment that supplies the staff kitchen. Photo: UWE

Carbon reduction commitments include a switch to plant-based foods due to the significant environmental impact of meat and dairy production. A 50 per cent reduction in consumption would reportedly cut UK agricultural emissions by 25-40 per cent and free up 23 per cent of farmland for nature.

According to the Framework, the council will set out a position statement on low-carbon diets “which will influence all catering and food procurement.”

But there is work required to make local, fresh produce available to everyone across the city.

In ‘food poor’ wards, areas with limited access to nutritious fresh food such as Hartcliffe, Lawrence Hill, Bishopsworth and Stockwood, “food insecurity is often high.”

It’s hoped residents of these wards will be able to walk to purchase fresh produce a minimum of once a week, by 2027.

Plans include community wholefood buying groups; an affordable local veg box trial by 2026; an electric car club implemented in Lawrence Weston by 2026 and expanded citywide by 2030; mobile greengrocers, as trialled by Heart of BS13; and seasonal markets in playgrounds, church halls and children’s centres.

The Framework also sets a general goal for food growing space to be available in all areas of the city.

It states that by 2027 the most suitable council land for growing will be protected “in perpetuity through policy and planning protection”, and that council policies should support increased and sustained growing.

Also by 2027, a number of allotment sites should be wheelchair-friendly. The Framework suggests the council’s new Food Growing Strategy should address issues such as a “lack of growing space in less affluent wards” and for Global Majority communities.

Land is to be used in an environmentally-conscious way, so tenants will be asked to sign a nature-friendly growing pledge on council land by 2026, and on private land by 2028.

Local food growing produces fresh, nature-friendly produce while building communities and improving people’s health and wellbeing. Photo: Wild & Fruitful/Rob Wick

Food waste is also a significant contributor to climate change: plans to reduce this include greater surplus redistribution by supermarkets and local schools; food waste recycling available to all including high rise flats; community composting schemes, such as that launched this year by BS13; and reusable cups to become “the norm” in line with the October 2023 government ban of plastic plates, bowls and cutlery in England.

One challenge lies in the lack of local processing facilities for compostable packaging, meaning these are likely to end up in landfill – “shifting rather than reducing waste”. According to WRAP, less than 1 in 400 – just 0.25 per cent – of the UK’s 2.5bn disposable coffee cups are recycled each year.

The Partnership has developed a set of indicators to measure progress on the goals, and recommends the Framework is reviewed every two years.

This piece of independent journalism is supported by The Extra Mile and the Bristol24/7 public and business membership.

Main image: Sims Hill Shared Harvest

Ursula Billington

Ursula Billington has a background in environmentalism, wellbeing and the arts. She studied Practical Sustainability in Bristol, gaining experience of agroecology, permaculture and sustainable living projects across the UK. She has since put her knowledge and enthusiasm in to practice with roles at Oxfam, Netplants (EU Erasmus project) and the Sustainable Soils Alliance, an organisation focused on placing soil health at the centre of new UK agricultural policy. She is currently the Climate & Sustainability Editor at Bristol 24/7. She spends the rest of her time on the fiddle.

Tags: building resilient food policy, transforming the food system