What is the Belfast food Network, and what do we do? It’s not a simple answer but, then again, it’s not a simple problem. Here in Northern Ireland we have an abundance of producers, distributors and suppliers. However, like the rest of the UK and Ireland we suffer from ever increasing levels of food poverty, food waste and longer, less efficient supply chains.
We seek to combat this state of affairs by promoting a greater profusion and diversity within the food industry, making use of, while not exploiting our resources. We plan to work within the food industry, increasing the supply of high quality produce while keeping value for both consumers and local business. Our produce is world beating – we just don’t eat enough of it.
It’s about changing attitudes at every point of the food acquisition process, from farm to fork, taking in producers, wholesales and suppliers, through to caterers, restaurateurs and the general public. It’s about having a sustainable food policy in place from local government to Stormont and beyond.
We aim to tackle food poverty by promoting education, giving people the tools and know–how they need in order to make the most of their food budget. It starts with sensible shopping, storage and the skills to prepare and reuse food in the most efficient way – learning to love your leftovers is just the beginning.
We encourage people to think about where their food has come from, about the real cost of food as opposed to what we pay in the supermarkets, in terms of environment and exploitation. Allotments, urban gardens and city farms can all help us understand what’s on our plate and offer people a chance to take control of what they eat.
A truly sustainable food industry that addresses all these issues is of tremendous benefit to society as a whole, with increased health and fitness, levels of wellbeing and a stronger economic base with less reliance on expensive imports.
We are part of the ever growing Sustainable Food Cities network, an alliance of cities and towns that aim to advance the cause of food sustainability nationwide. Belfast was one of the founder cities of a group that now encompasses nearly 50 members throughout the UK and Ireland.