Bristol One City: Food system collaboration in response to COVID-19

Bristol One City

[Ped Asgarian, Director, Feeding Bristol] We’ve always known that there were cracks in our food system, what COVID did was it ripped open those cracks much more in a way that needed initial crisis management.

[Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor of Bristol] So we were aiming to become a Sustainable Food City by 2020.

[Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol] which is the first step in putting us on a pathway to making sure that everyone across the city has access to sustainable, nutritious food.

[Councillor Asher Craig] COVID then hit but it hasn’t derailed us and has refocused our efforts.

[Marvin Rees] We made space for a whole range of organisations in Bristol who wanted to tackle hunger, nutritional poverty looking at the whole food system and ultimately formed the real backbone of our food effort around COVID.

[Ped Asgarian] The Cheers Drive project came out of collaboration between chefs who no longer had a business that was available for them to work in and Caring in Bristol which was an organisation that was working within the homeless sector already.

[Kat Caldwell, Operations Manager, Caring in Bristol] The Council was working on an initiative to put people who were experiencing homelessness into hotel accommodation, it just became kind of clear, I guess that people were gonna need to have food delivered to them.

[Josh Eggleton, Restaurant Owner, Bristol] The first thing that happened was we went to one of my restaurants, which is a fish and chip shop and we cooked all the fish and chips that was in there because we couldn’t open and we served everyone fish and chips. We then went to the next restaurant, and just immediately soaked up all the food that was left over and then we used that restaurant to be a permanent kitchen. That immediate mobilisation happened and then we put a more permanent structure in place by creating two more kitchens, creating a rota system and just making it happen very quickly.

[Kat Caldwell] Lots of Bristol’s top restaurants and chefs got involved every day, cooking food for up to 400 people and that was breakfast, lunch and dinner. And then we had a group of distribution volunteers that would come and collect the food, take it to the various sites, and then deliver it door-to-door to people in the hotels.

[Josh Eggleton] And over the six month period, we’ve made about 140,000 plus meals. We would use surplus food from FareShare. We also support our supply chain as well. But the most important thing was that it was a nutritious meal, you know, it was healthy, nutritious and delicious.

[Mohammed El Sharif, Community Development Manager, Bristol City Council] We looked at the assets in the city and we made a map of all food provision across the city. So to identify and understand what to build on but also to connect it together. So connecting organisations who work strategically, such as Feeding Bristol, into organisations who are really grassroots. One of the things we worked really strategically in the council is to identify gaps in food provision in the city. A key gap is the culturally appropriate foods, so we have to work with organisations like Muslim 4 Bristol.

[Muna Talha, Coordinator, Muslims 4 Bristol] People receive food, but it’s not the right kind of food that they eat, what our job was to top up this and make it like halal or things that they consume daily.

[Mohammed El Sharif] People from different parts of the city, organisations, community groups, individuals, we all worked together to support the vulnerable members of our community.

[Tehseen Majothi, Head Chef, Bristol Sweetmart] I mean we had local people, who wanted to cook, we had taxi drivers who wanted to actually distribute the food. We had asylum seekers who had no money to give, but they wanted to help and serve in their own way. We gave them the ingredients you know from the money that had been donated, and they were able to contribute.

[Mohammed El Sharif] In each area in each neighbourhood, we identify an organisation, or a community centre to be our community hub. Through that we can distribute food, and also bring volunteers together to help and it was a fantastic opportunity to work with local organisations while providing food.

[Simon Green, FOOD Clubs Coordinator, Family Action] Food clubs are a way of providing affordable food for families. So we take food from Fare Share, convert it into a pantry style model, so people will come and collect a bag of food each week.

[Sally Jaeckle OBE, Trustee, Feeding Bristol] Families join, they only have to pay £3.50 a week, for which they get about £20 worth of good food.

[Simon Green] The transaction is really important to us. It provides that financial stability for the model, but it also empowers our members and that gives a bit of dignity to people as well. It destigmatises the fact that obviously this food is surplus from the industry, and it starts a conversation about budgeting and healthy eating. When COVID hit we had to think strategically, and so we were able to work with FareShare, Feeding Bristol and Feeding Britain and rapidly expanding the amount of FOOD clubs we had from five right through to 14 her in Bristol, and we’re engaging with almost 400 families and we’re distributing almost 3 tons of food a week.

[Ped Asgarian] What was great about it was the way that they were engaging with people to teach them about the food that they were selling to them.

[Title] 120 Community Organisations Offering Food Support

[Title] 220,000 Meals Delivered In the First 10 Weeks of Lockdown

[Marvin Rees] We really benefited from all the investment that we’d already put into relationships in the city. All the work we’ve done on writing the One City plan, and developing that culture of collaboration.

[Asher Craig] I am still in awe of the citizens of Bristol.

[Josh Eggleton] The generosity that has been showed from our trade I think is incredible.

[Mohammed El Sharif] The greatest success is bringing people together.

[Tehseen Majothi] It was such a great honour for all those who were involved.

[Asher Craig] We have seen collaboration on a scale we’ve never seen. We have seen a generosity of spirit across the whole of the city. We have seen a herculean effort around feeding the city and feeding those who are at disadvantage. We have seen One City and the One City approach in action, and it’s been amazing to see.

[Title] Logos: Caring in Bristol, Cheers Drive, Food On Our Doorstep, Bristol One City, Bristol City Council, #WeAreBristol, Feeding Bristol, Eyes Up Films.


We need to find local solutions to global challenges.

We want to make big and lasting changes to our food system in Bristol, changes that will build resilience and bring about positive changes for individuals, our communities, our environment and our workplaces.

Bristol’s COVID-19 food response brought people together and showed what we can achieve as a city. Collaboration and partnerships have been essential in the city’s ability to adapt and respond to the pandemic. We are one of 210 cities signed up to the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact who have been asked to share our city’s COVID-19 food response, and this video shows just some of the amazing work that has gone on in Bristol so far.

This is not the end of the story – in June 2021 Bristol achieved the gold standard in the Sustainable Food City awards, only one of two cities in the UK to do so. If you feel inspired by what you’ve seen in the film, then you can play a part in Bristol’s resilient food future too by visiting Bristol Bites Back Better