My younger friends say there is nothing worse than going silent on social media...that one should blog on a weekly basis, tweet hourly and update FB regularly. I find this impossible. So, whilst we've been silent, we haven't been inactive. Since returning from a month in Berlin, I agreed to work part time for the Nutrition Advice team in Public Health England headed by Dr Louis Levy who is just fantastic to work for. My colleague and I are updating guidance to support 'Healthier, More Sustainable Catering' for Adult settings. This will be launched regionally in February. I have to say that working for PHE has been an incredible experience. I've met the teams responsible for the Change for Life campaign, Responsibility Deal, SACN, obesity strategy and maintaining food composition databases. A great learning experience.
In October I also met a property developer with a vision for a 'Food School.' In his words one that isn't just about teaching people how to bake cup cakes but tackles some of the public health and environmental issues we are facing. I developed a concept paper incorporating training for school staff and budding food entrepreneurs as well as community cooking classes. Now we are trying to develop a robust business plan (through the help of friends and family including Robert, Kavita, Thilo, Uncle and the developer himself) and somehow need to raise £150,000.00 to start it off. We're speaking to investors, banks, entrepreneurs, commissioners, potential users which has also been a great learning experience.
The aim of the Food School will be to support the public to make 'healthier,more sustainable food choices'. I don't for one minute believe that this translates into 5-a-day, eat organic only workshops...rather a multi-purpose centre where organisations, communities and individuals of all ages and backgrounds can learn more about food. The more we understand, the more likely we are to develop the skills to make choices for health, wellbeing and sustainability. Let's see how it goes...We're also speaking to an Alliance of businesses, academics and entrepreneurs (headed by Dr Rick Robinson of IBM Smarter Cities) to develop a Smarter Food Project.
"A few months ago we held a food workshop to explore the potential for a “smart local food” initiative in Birmingham. As a consequence, Shaleen Meelu is starting a new business venture, the “Birmingham Food School” in a recent development.
The objectives of the business are:
- To bring national investment in food training programmes to Birmingham and to offer food training to public sector, private sector and consumer customers.
- To build a directory of local food suppliers and eventually operate sustainable local food delivery network in partnership with the transport entrepreneur Carbon Voyage.
- To increase employment opportunities in the food sector in Birmingham by offering training course in running successful food businesses.
- To make it easier for public sector catering services to procure food from local producers.
- To contribute to healthier diets across Birmingham.
The business is more likely to succeed if we can introduce it to people and organisations in Birmingham who buy food or who buy food training; or to business support schemes and funding that can help the Birmingham Food School succeed.
This is an example of an initiative that usually starts in London, not Birmingham; let’s do everything we can to help it succeed here."
Update 6th May 2014
We signed the lease in March after securing funds to develop the site. We will be submitting plans for development in May and hope to construct the Food School over the summer months (planning approval takes 8 weeks).