Our trip to the FoodCycle Conference!

Last Saturday, members of the FoodCycle Bristol team rose bright n’ early before 6 am to the glorious Bristolian morning sunshine (dark cold wet) and set off for London. We assembled at Temple Meads, bleary eyed and already buzzing on coffee for our 7:30am, but excited about the day to come, the people we’d meet, the things we’d learn and the food we’d eat!

We were off to the FoodCycle National Conference! A weekend where FoodCyclists from all over the country, from the bitter North of Durham to the far East of Norwich to the beautiful colleges of Cambridge, meet up to share ideas, tips and embrace all things FoodCycle.

After a fairly pleasant train journey and a less pleasant hour long commute from Paddington to East London, we arrived at the conference, were quickly directed towards tea and cake (yay) and our new bright green food cycle t-shirts (see our lovely managers below). Despite being pretty tired, we were all excited about the day to come.

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Over the course of Saturday, we attended a series of workshops on Project Management, Pitching FoodCycle, Fundraising, Cooking/ Nutrition and Vulnerable Adults. They were super interesting and informative, and we all picked up lots of tips and ideas to use in our own FoodCycle endeavours. What’s more, there were free burritos at lunch! 😀

It was really great to meet FoodCyclists from other hubs, not only to learn about their projects, events and ideas, but to share our knowledge. I have to say I felt pretty proud telling people about our community garden. Being the second oldest FoodCycle hub, Bristol is well known for innovation through our creative ideas for expanding the word and work of FoodCycle, and our huge team of managers! In fact, we won an award for being the most enterprising hub!

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At the end of the day, and by far my favourite, there was a panel debate on the topic: “What would a sustainable food system look like in 2030?” Being a geographer, and currently studying a unit all about the complexities and intricacies of food, food cultures, and food systems, I was in my element. The panel was composed of Simon Bennett – an organic farmer, Ed Dowding – Founder and CEO of FoodTrade (a social enterprise), Kerry McCarthy – Bristolian MP and Denise Bentley – Founder of Tower Hamlets Food Bank.

The discussion was heated, discussing issues of distribution, waste, consumerism, policy (CAP), education, climate change, agrofuels, energy crises, government funding, tax, co-operatives, livestock, crops, harvests, imports, subsidies, poverty, production, surplus, social activism, economics, politics, knowledge structure, power…. the list goes on. I could write an essay but I won’t because I feel it would be more productive to put my energy into the actual food essay I need to write for my course…

After a busy day, and a delicious dinner made from surplus food, I travelled back to Bristol with another FoodCyclist, whilst other members of our team stayed for day two. From my understanding, day two was equally as fun, interesting and thought provoking with more discussions, workshops and of course food!

Danielle Jackson

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