On Monday 17th July, over fifty people gathered at Plymouth Guildhall to share their views on all things food at the Best Food Forward People’s Assembly – and what a day it was! It was fantastic to see residents from across Plymouth, as well as Councillor William Noble on behalf of Moor View Ward. Representatives of key organisations were present, including Plymouth City Council, Livewell Southwest, Diversity Business Incubator, Plymouth Soup Run, Four Greens Community Trust, Summerhouse Services, Onward Community Group, The Village Hub and Plymouth’s network of Community Builders, as well as local enterprises including Heyl Bakery, Food is Fun CIC, Purdy’s Punjabi Cuisine and Wise Roots CIC.
A short welcome and introduction set the stage for a series of three facilitated small group discussion sessions centred around what good food means to us, how we connect with and around it, and what actions could be taken to ensure everyone in Plymouth can access, grow, share and celebrate it. With ample opportunity to reflect and take stock during lunch and refreshment breaks, new connections were forged and existing ones rekindled, all fuelled by the colourful deliciousness on offer from The Hedgerow Hound and more than a few cups of Jabulani coffee along the way. An interactive exhibition space provided further ways to learn and engage with different food issues in the city, with a Collage Corner courtesy of the Plymouth FoodSEqual team offering the chance to get creative.
Some of the diverse opinions around what “good food” means to participants
Some of the ways that participants feel connected with and through food
Suggested action areas around what participants would like to see going forward
All of the materials form the day have been collated and recorded by the Food Plymouth team, with the main themes highlighted above. Together these are informing the latest iteration of a Food Action Plan for Plymouth (2023-2026). There are further mini events in the planning, taking this valuable participatory experience to residents across Plymouth via community centres, libraries and more.
Huge thanks go to everyone who took part, with extra thanks due to group facilitators Ela Roszkowska and Jabo Butera from Diversity Business Incubator, Jennifer Taylor from Plymouth City Council’s Public Health team, Purdy Giles of Purdy’s Punjabi Cuisine, helper and photographer Jack Skelton, and all of the Food Plymouth core team for their input and energy throughout.
Finally, the event would not have been possible without a dedicated Participatory Processes Development grant from Sustainable Food Places (with funding made possible by The National Lottery Community Fund and The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation) which Food Plymouth was delighted to be awarded in 2022. Thanks also go to Ben Messer at Food Matters and fellow Sustainable Food Places for guidance and inspiration along the way.