A vision for a Bountiful Bristol
By Ellie Collins
Bristol Food Network volunteer Ellie meets Rachel from Bountiful Bristol, an organisation that supports allotment sites to donate surplus vegetables to local community food projects. Whether you have an allotment or not, find out how you can get involved.
My manager has a cucumber on her desk and it’s been there for several weeks.
If, like me, you were lucky enough to grow cucumbers this year you might also have been overwhelmed by The Glut. I’ve been offering, begging and bullying people to take my cucumbers, my colleagues accept them with delight, then forget to take them home. Contrast that with my day job, where I support adults with learning disabilities to manage their benefits, and it was pretty jarring to watch folk counting the pennies while I had cucumbers coming out of my ears.
With the cost of living rising, it can be hard to dwell on our broken food system, which is why it’s so heartening to meet someone like Rachel.
Rachel took over the paid role of managing Bountiful Bristol this summer. She operates from Alderman Moor Allotments, hosted by Hotwells & District Allotments Association, and the food from the site is donated to BS3 Community Food Club, a charity offering community-building activities, classes and services. Rachel is a powerhouse with a vision: Bountiful Bristol currently supports seven allotment sites to donate on a weekly basis to local community food projects (many other sites donate on a more ad-hoc basis) and this year they shared almost 2000kg of food with people who have less access to fresh, home-grown fruit and veg.
Each allotment site has a voluntary ambassador, who liaises with the organisation receiving the food, arranges transport and receives regular support from Rachel and the team. Since talking to Rachel, I realised that I could be donating on my own allotment site and I’ve started trimming and donating my kale (which I hope will also give the slugs fewer hiding places). People harvest their fruit and veg and drop it off at their local donation point, then the Bountiful Bristol volunteers collect it and it’s shared with local people via a community food project, either as fresh produce or in the form of a delicious meal.
Although Bountiful Bristol started out as a way to rescue surplus food, redistribution is only the first phase. The second is intentionally growing food on allotment sites, and this is currently being piloted on the Alderman Moor site where the project has funded a polytunnel to stretch the growing season and offer a wider variety of crops. The third phase is inviting people who don’t have access to land to grow food on-site. The sharing of skills is a vital part of building resilient food systems and communities.
Bountiful Bristol has a vision: a city where locally grown food is shared throughout the community, boosting health, reducing food miles, and building a tapestry of connection and community. Their vision aims to address the climate emergency, support local communities and rebalance inequality.
If you have an allotment you could share your glut, plan to grow more than you need, or even become an ambassador – new ambassadors bringing new sites on board is the key to growing this project. If you don’t have an allotment, but would still like to get involved there are other vital roles, like transporting the food.
It’s a huge vision! One that we can’t hope to tackle alone without getting burnt out and overwhelmed: so if it resonates with you, please get in touch with Rachel to offer your support. We can’t change things on our own, but together we are strong.
Find food redistributors in Bristol: Take a look at Bristol Good Food 2030’s tool to help you find the best places to redistrubute your surplus food.
So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.
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