The 15th British Food Fortnight which took place from September 17 to October 2 recorded a great year of celebrations with schools, shops, pubs, restaurants, hospitals and communities all backing British produce
A densely populated country with a relatively small surface area, it is easy to forget just how much food is produced and the UK and just how important the sector is to its overall economy. Food and drink manufacturing is the UK’s largest single manufacturing sector and the agri-food sector contributes £108billion or 6.8% to national Gross Value Added and accounts for about 13.5% of national employment, according to DEFRA Food Statistics Pocketbook 2016. Certainly something to celebrate.
British Food Fortnight kicked off with official sponsor, Co-op, extending its commitment to back UK farmers by switching all of its bacon and lamb to 100% British, as part of it’s on-going pledge to invest a minimum of £1.5billion sourcing UK meat and vegetables.
Specific campaign activity ranged from dressing its stores in colourful bunting, running an educational roadshow with special talks on provenance and producing an inspirational Quality British Food Cookbook.
Campaign founder Alexia Robinson is proud to be working alongside the Co-op. “Ending this year’s British Food Fortnight with the news that the Co-op is continuing its sponsorship in 2017 is just brilliant,” she says. The Co-op is the perfect partner for Love British Food’s activities. More than any other retailer, the Co-op is making quality British Food accessible and affordable to high streets throughout Britain.” She emphasises that despite the Union Jacks flying in abundance to back the campaign, there is far more behind it than some patriotic flag-waving. ”For them – and us – supporting British food is about much more than hanging out the bunting.”
Activities have become increasingly imaginative over the years and demonstrate the quality and variety of produce that growers and farmers supply, and could export.
British School meals bonanza
Schools have traditionally got behind British Food Fortnight and this year was no exception. Catering organisation, Cucina, which feeds more than 60,000 British state school pupils every school day across 47 schools around the country ran a special British Food Fortnight menu.
Top Cucina chef Phil Howard led the British Food Fortnight effort by judging its successful You’re the Chef competition where school children were invited to develop their own British recipes.
A brand new after school programme helped students, staff and parents learn how to produce recipes and were given inspiration on seasonal British ingredients. Howard was joined development chef and Ash Mair who developed special dishes for British theme days held during the fortnight.
Schoolchildren around the country also took part in farm visits, craft activities, talks, tastings and tours. Some of the events included Hog & Hop evenings, and veg-heads and scarecrow making.
From the North to the South an impressive number of NHS Foundation Trusts embraced British Food Fortnight. Staff and patients were treated to Chefs Specials using just locally sourced British meat and seasonal British vegetables. Freeman Hospital, part of the Newcastle & Tyne NHS Foundation Trust featured British classics on its menu while the Morecambe Bay Trust worked with local suppliers, organised theme days, promoted seasonal British products through its restaurants and patient menus as well as bringing suppliers on site to do some cooking demonstrations within its restaurants. Gloucester Royal Hospital even placed a small farmers market in its restaurant
Cake for the Queen
Schools up and down the country took part in this spectacular competition that challenged students to bake a cake for Her Majesty using healthy, British ingredients. Chosen from a total of 98 entries, Chiddingstone Primary School in Kent was crowned winner. Its stunning “The Queen’s 90th Garden Party at Buckingham Palace” cake was made with home-grown carrots, Kentish apples and local eggs and honey. It won the school a very special visit to Buckingham Palace in recognition of the incredible work put in by the students.
Villages, towns and cities
From staging a Great British Food Festival in Bath to showcasing all the wonderful British produce in the region at the Taste of Timsbury, Hampshire, the country saw more foodie events than ever in support of the fortnight. Previous winners of the Fortnight’s Harvest Heroes competition the town of Emsworth went one better by running an incredibly successful British themed wine and beer festival.
Celebrations of long lost recipes and regional specialities were given a makeover. Hundreds of pubs and restaurants championed British produce and we saw a resurgence in traditional dishes. The National Association of British Market Authorities encouraged markets nationwide to ensure a good selection of British produce was on offer.
“In homes and neighbourhoods across the land we encouraged everyone to celebrate all that is great about our delicious British food and they didn’t disappoint”, says chef Raymond Blanc, part of the judging panel to find the best celebration of British food around the country.
Harvest torch celebration
Taking pride of place amongst worshippers and a stunning display of local produce, the Harvest Torch looked very much at home at the National Harvest Service within Lincoln Cathedral as a symbol of thanksgiving for all the home-grown food made available by hardworking growers, farmers and producers around the country.