Good Food Governance

Enhancing diversity and inclusion in the food sector: insights from webinar 

By Ramona Andrews

In a recent thought-provoking webinar titled ‘How Can the Food Sector Be More Diverse?’, experts from various corners of the food industry in Bristol gathered to discuss the challenges and opportunities in creating a more inclusive and diverse food sector. The panel discussion was hosted by Bristol Food Network as part of Feeding Bristol’s Food Justice Fortnight.  

The speakers shed light on the importance of breaking down barriers, fostering inclusion, and rethinking traditional structures to pave the way for a more representative and equitable industry. 

A collaborative approach to inclusion 

Louise Delmege from Bristol Food Network chaired the discussion and started out by emphasising that improving diversity and inclusion is at the heart of both Bristol Good Food 2030 One City Framework for Action and the One City Food Equality Strategy for Bristol. She highlighted that marginalised communities often lack the time to engage with such initiatives due to various constraints, which underscores the importance of creating accessible avenues for engagement.  

Empowering the next generation: ‘How to Be a Chef’ 

Eloise Morton from Square Food Foundation discussed the programme ‘How to Be a Chef’ aimed at supporting young individuals aged 18 to 25 facing barriers to employment within the hospitality industry. Eloise stressed the importance of bridging the gap between training and actual employment by providing mentorship and tailored support. She urged the industry to consider creating networks that provide work placements with ongoing guidance, as this can open doors for those who need additional support to thrive in a fast-paced sector. 

Watch back the webinar in full.

Addressing diversity in the farming sector 

Ped Asgarian from Feeding Bristol shared his perspective on the lack of diversity in the farming sector and his personal experience of being a non-white person in both the farming and environmental sectors. He highlighted that farming ranks as one of the least diverse sectors in the country, and despite the sector’s commitment to ethical practices, structural racism persists. Ped called for genuine efforts to diversify leadership structures, emphasising the need to move beyond conversations, and actively implement changes. 

Equity, equality, diversity, and inclusion work 

Dale Cranshaw from Windmill Hill City Farm shared insights from his role in equity, equality, diversity, and inclusion work at the farm. He highlighted the significance of setting clear goals for success while avoiding overwhelm. Dale also stressed the importance of data in tracking progress and fostering engagement at all levels of an organisation. 

Nesrin Ayad, owner of Nessi Cuisine and one of the speakers at the webinar.

Empowering refugee and migrant entrepreneurs 

Shalini Sivakrishnan from ACH (formerly known as the Ashley Community Housing) highlighted their work in supporting refugee and migrant entrepreneurs, showcasing the success story of Nesrin Ayad, owner of Nessi Cuisine. This initiative not only assists individuals in launching their food businesses but also emphasises adapting to local tastes and, for example, sustainability practices. Nesrin spoke about ways that ACH has supported her – read more about her business on the Bristol Good Food 2030 blog

Breaking structural barriers 

The panel also delved into the structural factors perpetuating the lack of diversity in the food sector. Ped pointed out historical issues rooted in white male capitalism, which shaped organisational structures and hiring practices. Dale emphasised the importance of focusing on diversifying perspectives and experiences, not just numerical representation. The speakers highlighted the need to challenge existing processes and actively seek out diverse perspectives without placing the burden solely on marginalised individuals to suggest solutions. 

Conclusion: a call to action 

The webinar illuminated the urgent need to transform the food sector into a more diverse and inclusive space. From fostering inclusion in training programmes to diversifying leadership and management, the industry must undertake a holistic approach. Collaboration, data-driven decision-making, and a commitment to long-term change were underscored as crucial strategies. As the discussions revealed, the reward of a diverse and inclusive food sector goes beyond statistics; it enriches perspectives, nurtures innovation, and creates a space where everyone can thrive. One example of co-collaboration is the Community Climate Action Project, which has led to the development of six innovative community-led climate action projects with community organisations co-created with and for their local communities. 

In essence, the transformation of the food sector is an ongoing journey that requires unwavering commitment from all stakeholders. By implementing the insights shared by the webinar’s panelists, the industry can take a crucial step toward a more equitable and representative future. It is time to break down the barriers, reshape the structures, and make the food sector a true reflection of the diverse society it serves.

Watch back the ‘How Can the Food Sector Be More Diverse?’ webinar on the Bristol Good Food 2030 website. 

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So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

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