As we say goodbye to outgoing Chief Executive, Aine Morris, we ask what’s next for a project born in a pandemic?
When we started Bristol Food Union in March 2020, we found ourselves in an extraordinary situation. The pandemic had just hit, the government had told people to avoid hospitality businesses, we were worried for our livelihoods, and wanted to collectively support food businesses and people in Bristol that would need access to a decent meal.
There is no doubt that the Food Union has achieved some good things over the last 18 months. Since our inception, we’ve worked to represent our food and hospitality industry, lobbied councils and government, offered community and collaboration to members, delivered thousands of community food boxes, developed a delicious Christmas campaign, run No More No Shows, and supported hospitality recruitment through Food Jobs Friday.
Our project however was born under a very unusual set of circumstances. The public was stuck at home and could support our efforts, whether through donations of time, money or online support. The hospitality industry was closed, restaurants were empty, staff were furloughed. In short, we had a large available resource that meant we could get stuff done.
We were able to achieve things collectively that would not have been possible with business as usual.
Since August 2020, we have been incorporated as a not-for-profit social enterprise and worked with a fantastic Board of Directors, who have offered a significant amount of time and resources to support our organisational development.
We have successfully developed some strong assets that benefit our local food community, and which we hope can continue to exist for years to come.
What we lack, however, is financial and organisational security. Our small group of existing Directors does not have the capacity to take the project forwards. So, whilst the potential for the organisation is strong, the people and resources needed to achieve our goals is very limited.
So, what next?
Well, we seem to have two choices:
1. We say thank you and goodbye: BFU was a lovely idea, which has delivered good stuff during a global pandemic, but now the time has come to say goodbye. Not everything is meant to last forever…
2. We figure out how to hand the project back to Bristol’s food community. If the community would like the project to continue and have an interest in taking it on, new Directors could be appointed. New people would need to have experience running a start-up social enterprise, an understanding of the challenges facing the food and hospitality industry, or skills in growing and scaling new businesses.
As the Bristol Food Union was a project founded with a spirit of cross-sector collaboration at its heart, the current Directors feel that it shouldn’t be solely their decision to decide what happens next. We’d like to host an open conversation, while things are quiet in January to see what appetite there might be for others to get involved.
On Monday 24th January, 11am-1pm we will be hosting an open online meeting: ‘What next for Bristol Food Union?’
The event will take place on zoom.
This open meeting is for current food union members, anyone who works in the food and hospitality sector – who cooks, serves, makes or produces food in restaurants or communities, or is part of the city’s community food or hospitality workforce.
We will be asking :
What are the opportunities and challenges facing Bristol Food Union?
Is there interest from new directors and a proposed industry advisory board?
Bristol Women in Food Network: discussion, need and opportunity
What does the future look like for the Food Union?
We’d like this to be an open discussion where people from across the community can share their experiences and ideas for ongoing collaboration across Bristol’s food scene.
To book your ticket click here.
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