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Bristol is Global Competition 2019 – a student response to the global food crisis

Bristol Is Global finalists

Food – not one of us would be able to live without it and crucially, this obvious fact is understated. In the global north, with fast food delivery services available at our fingertips and supermarkets stocked with shelves of tinned cans, frozen meals and fresh fruit and veg, it is unsurprisingly easy to take food for granted. In an increasingly globalised world, where much of our food travels miles across oceans and roads, it is ever more common to find ourselves alienated from the cycles and processes that start in the soil and end up at the tip of our knives and forks. Our disconnection to food is significant given that the global food industry is in a hidden environmental crisis: a crisis of social, cultural, historical, economic, political, and geographical significance. As students, we recognise that if climate demands are not met within our lifetimes: water scarcity, diseases, droughts, floods, and the acidification of oceans will impact the security of our food in irrepressible ways (Empson 2016: 77-8).

And so, this year, Bristol is Global (BiG) asked students to address the question:

How can the university, students and the wider public address the problems with the local and global food industry?

Focusing on three sub-categories:

  1. Food waste
  2. The hunger-obesity paradox
  3. Single-use plastic packaging.

BiG is an annual, university-wide competition organised by students that is themed around a different global socio-political challenge each year, with the winning team being awarded £500. The competition provides an opportunity for students from different disciplines to collaboratively develop a solution to a global problem on a local scale, founded on the belief that no global challenge will ever be resolved by one person, but rather a collective effort of countless individuals each making small actions.

To introduce the theme, Joy Carey, an expert in sustainable food planning who is currently a member of the Bristol Food Policy Council along with Natalie Fee, an environmental campaigner against plastic pollution, gave inspiring talks to launch the competition. This was followed by a panel debate to help students better understand the complex issue at hand a panel event took place. Representatives from Bristol Waste Company, Fair Trade Network, Community Farm, as well as our own Professor Jeffrey Brunstrom engaged in a thought provoking discussion with the students.

This year, the four finalist teams came up with four creative and diverse ideas that could potentially have a significant impact on the Bristol community:

  1. RecycleWise: A comprehensive information pack distributed to second year flats educating students on good recycling practices.
  2. Bright: An all-inclusive app with tutorial videos, interactive maps and reward schemes to encourage people to follow more sustainable eating habits.
  3. Eat Well Bristol: Student-volunteer run holiday cooking sessions in primary schools to make organic and healthy eating more accessible to underprivileged families in Bristol.
  4. Green Brewery Initiative: Growing indoor crops and herbs using plastic bottles rather than pots and used coffee grounds instead of fertiliser to engage the University community in reducing waste.

Members from LettUs Grow, a successful University of Bristol start-up developing vertical farming technology met with the teams to help them refine their pitch. In the final event, each team presented their ideas to a panel of judges. The quality of research and originality in each proposal was truly impressive, as well as the passion and enthusiasm shown by all four teams. The judges ultimately decided to chip in an extra £100 and fund two teams, the Bright App and RecycleWise, as well as providing continued support to all four teams to carry on with their projects. With Bristol Going for Gold (Bristol’s ambition to become the first Gold Award Sustainable Food City in the UK by 2020), each proposal has tremendous potential to help the city reach its goal.

As organisers of BiG we would like to thank the Cabot Institute for providing invaluable support throughout the competition. We would also like to extend our thank you to the Alumni Grant Foundation for funding to further help the teams implement their ideas.

Next year BiG will return with a different socio-economic issue, challenging students to come up with solutions that can truly help the Bristol community in different ways. We hope to engage more students and encourage the entire university community to engage in the issues we face.

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This blog was written by Lina Drozd, Usha Bholah and Smruthi Radhakrishnan, all students at the University of Bristol. 

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