Local Food Economy

“You said – we did”: Councillor Asher Craig hosts food businesses webinar

By Anna Blightman

Anna Blightman

Anna Blightman from The Assemblies reports on the latest Bristol food businesses sector webinar hosted by Deputy Mayor Cllr Asher Craig, chair of the Bristol Going for Gold steering group. The event updated those working in the food sector about the latest economic developments in Bristol, advised on working in a COVID-secure environment and explained more about the Bristol Eating Better Award.

The webinar opened with how issues that had been highlighted in the original webinar (including better information and knowledge sharing) have been met, with more signage and posters in place. We were reassured that Bristol City Council was here to work together with businesses in Bristol, and will continue to support and help promote local schemes.

Part of this is the rather large and impressive-looking Economic Recovery Strategy, currently in development and set to launch in mid-October. This strategy sets out the intent to support the city across a wide range of sectors, including the food sector as part of the bigger business and investment theme.

This took us to healthy eating, and what we, as the food sector can do to encourage this. With COVID-19 highlighting a link between fatalities and weight, there is a real opportunity for food businesses to rethink their choices around healthy options.

St Nicholas Market have 50% of their vendors signed up to the Bristol Eating Better Award, an award for businesses that serve up nutritious, tasty meals each day. The traders have remarked on the wider benefits, from more sales at St. Nicks to promotion for securing stalls at other markets.

Windmill Hill City Farm café, another Bristol Eating Better Award holder, highlighted the importance of ensuring that food standards aren’t compromised in this brave new world. This is a sentiment that I’ve found echoed all over the city’s food sector.

In order to ensure that The Assemblies (Old Market Assembly, The Canteen & No.1 Harbourside) can continue to operate as three-star Sustainable Restaurant Association-awarded venues, and be champions of Bristol Going For Gold, we’ve made changes to our menus and opening hours. Being closed Monday and Tuesday means we concentrate on our busier days.

Old Market Assembly - small plates

Our menus are carefully curated to ensure economic viability and sustainable options both take priority. It’s a challenge, but an exciting one! 

We are committed to serving more veg, and continue to prioritise plant-based dishes at all three of our venues. We’ve increased our range of produce from local suppliers and will be highlighting these on menus, alongside other opportunities for literature on what we are doing to increase our sustainability at this time.

The discussions that followed were focused on how the eating out sector could support healthy eating, especially with Christmas knocking at our door.

Suggestions and work already being done included:

  • working with chefs to design menus with healthier options (less saturated fats, less sugar)
  • making more of your sustainable and healthy credentials
  • being authentic, telling food stories

I came away feeling encouraged, and supported, not only by our fellow foodies but by the organisations, large and small, who are really helping us to make a difference.

What stands out overall with Bristol, and the food sector (and I’m guilty of saying this once or twice before) is the overwhelming sense of collaboration. Bristol excels itself here, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Big thanks to everyone involved.

Anna Blightman is Marketing Manager at The Assemblies (Old Market Assembly, The Canteen & No.1 Harbourside).

Those working in our city’s food sector face unprecedented challenges. Though the bid to make Bristol a Gold Sustainable Food City has had to refocus the need for a resilient food community has never been greater. Visit Bristol Food Network for more information and resources on Bristol’s Good Food response to the pandemic. Read Bristol Going for Gold Coordinator Joy Carey’s blog proposing five core principles on which to start building a better and more resilient food system.

#BristolFoodKind is a collaboration between Bristol Green Capital PartnershipBristol Food NetworkBristol City Council and Resource Futures.

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