We held our 2nd Annual Conference 22nd May 2023 at Blackburn Central Library “Food Under Wraps”.

It was an absolutely fantastic day, the vibe in the room was warm and gracious. It was mine (Halima’s) and Annie’s first big project stepping into our new shared coordinator role! It was wonderful to meet everyone and feel a warm connection.

The theme for this year was a specifically targeted at food related marketing and how this impacts consumer buying choice.

Why did we pick this niche?

There is a lot of confusion in the food industry. Misleading branding, marketing and labeling means people are becoming more and more disempowered whilst making food choices. This then impacts health, energy, focus and adds to struggles people already face.

Examples of this are:

  • Cereals that are marketed as wholegrain and good for you – but are actually packed with sugar.
  • Bus stop signs that have advertising posters for the next fizzy pop – indirectly sending signals to the brain and tempting you to buy.
  • Food companies paying social influencers thousands upon thousands to influence young minds to buy their food product.

We could go on.

Our objective is to give people back their power when it comes to food choice.

When people know how they are being marketed to, they can step into awareness and give themselves permission to read beyond the marketing and make their own informed choice. THAT is power.

Here’s a quick overview of the day’s events. (All keynotes were recorded and will be available in due course).

We first had Midwife Mischa and Clare from Public Health who shared how marketing begins from baby. Even though there are strict legislation, there are many examples of formula companies continuing to bypass them without consequence.

Breastmilk is a miracle food it in itself. Did you know breastfeeding reduces cancer risk for mum? There are numerous health benefits from breastmilk for both mum and baby that is impossible to replicate in formula, yet formula companies market their product in a way where they place it on par with breastmilk. It is like comparing apples and pears – they are different.

Formula definitely has a place AND mums can still be given the correct the information to make an informed choice to choose – but it’s about having access to the correct information. Blackburn with Darwen (BwD) has been awarded UNICEF Breastfeeding Gold Status which means there is ample support in the community to help mums breastfeed and inform their understanding around baby nutrition.

Next, we had Charlotte from Public Health and Chloe from Food Active who talked about the work being done in schools around food support and food education. This includes a number of campaigns including GULP (Give Up Loving Pop), support around improving lunch boxes, free school meals, food support making sure all children have access to breakfast and more. They shared a breakdown of how they used school grant money to implement food changes across schools.

Zainab and Aisha from One Voice WEGs shared their challenges as teenagers who enjoy cheap and cheerful takeaways. It was clear from this that healthy foods just aren’t as easily available and takeaways are seen as a norm. This is something we hope to share with Recipe 4 Health to encourage more food eateries to adopt healthier alternatives as part of their menu’s. The girls are also working on a project to reduce takeaway containers to help combat plastic waste. Go girls!

Shabaz Ali, a local teacher turned Tiktok star shared how food corporations invest millions into social media marketing and influencer marketing to directly target young minds. We take in a lot of messaging without realising through socials and this experiment video sums it up powerfully. The video is from Biteback, a national youth led campaign standing up to food corporations challenging their marketing tactics. We encourage as many schools to sign up to Biteback when applications open up again to get funded support within schools. We also hope to inspire a BwD Biteback Movement and would like to ask young people to reach out to us if its something they would like to be a part of.

Influencer Shabaz also donated the £500 for our Dragons Den. As part of the Dragons Den, we asked attendees to share a food solution they would want to implement. Our Dragons then prompted and questioned the proposals in order to choose a winner for the pot of funding. We’ve had approximately 8 submitted proposals that are still in discussion and winners will be shared on our socials soon!

We also had a keynote from Chandra and Oona from the soil association to recognise how we can take steps to incorporate choice for a healthier diet that caters for all. How can we incorporate as many options to make good food more accessible? Vegan, vegetarian, halal, gluten-free, diets are varied and perhaps we can look at how we can make food eateries and menu’s more inclusive overall.

Throughout the day we had some interactive workshops including tasting honey’s from Cherry Tree Beekepers, Learning what food labels are really saying and guessing the sugar in the milkshake (was it 17g?? it was something ridiculous!) – thanks to the Health and Wellbeing Team.

We had The Making Rooms show off their Farm Bot, a collaborative project with Tauheedul Boys exploring the use of technology in farming! They also held a seed bomb making workshop so that attendees can go away, throw and plant some wildflowers!

We had Pendle Plant Craft scheduled to give us a taste of foraged foods – but unfortunately they weren’t able to make it.

Denise from Recipe 4 Health held a stall and we are really pushing this, this year because we feel those food businesses trying to provide healthy options should be celebrated and supported! We need more of them. If you know a food business that provides wholesome foods, direct them to us at info@bwdfoodalliance.org.uk or direct them to apply for the Recipe 4 Health Award!

Of course we have to shout out our Recipe 4 Health Gold Award holding caterer: Beckys Bakery. Becky’s Bakery is situated in Brownhill and provided a absolutely a stunner buffet that was all vegetarian, wholesome and delicious!

There are far too many people to mention, this has truly been a come-together conference really honing in what Annie and I envision about building cohesiveness around all the different food organisations, whether it be food waste, growing, business, education etc. that all link into better quality life for all and the planet.

If you’re not a member of the food alliance, what are you waiting for? Sign up to our partner network now 😊