Blog #3 – Just two, four letter words on my shopping list started a new family ritual ………

In 2020, something changed in my grocery shopping routine and has changed how I shop ever since and, hopefully, how my kids will shop in the future.

I owe this change to my sister. Although we have lived on different continents for the past 18 years, we are closer than ever and share many of our values. At the beginning of the pandemic, we started to share our concerns about what we saw playing out in our corners of the world. The shortage of food staples and empty supermarket shelves was something we’d never experienced before. But we were the lucky ones, we could hop into our cars, buy what we needed, and although the stripped shelves were uncomfortable to witness, we were ok. But what if our circumstances were different? These conversations sparked my sister to suggest that I add a new item to the top of my weekly grocery list, just as she had been doing for a few months: FOOD BANK.

And there you have it; a new habit was formed. The silver lining of this small gesture was that my five-year-old daughter, a regular on the weekly food run, embraced this new routine. She reminds me if I’ve forgotten to add a non-perishable item to the cart and then proudly takes the item to the collection box at the store’s entrance.

I was reminded of this weekly practice as I read with interest about Visit Belfast’s new initiative, “Changing the Menu. For Good” 

A new tourism initiative aimed at tackling food poverty in Belfast was launched today by Visit Belfast, the city’s official destination management and marketing organization.

The sustainable tourism-focused “Changing the Menu. For Good” project will enlist venues, caterers and event organizers to directly raise funds for local food banks, including The People’s Kitchen.

Belfast’s tourism and events industry has been a catalyst for growth and regeneration, establishing hundreds of new businesses and enterprises and creating many thousands of jobs supporting livelihoods across the city region. Visit Belfast Chief Executive Gerry Lennon, said:

“Tourism has played a pivotal role in Belfast’s growth, vibrancy and economic wellbeing in recent years. By working collaboratively and creatively, Visit Belfast and our partners and stakeholders have identified targeted ways where the sector can continue to contribute positively to the city’s social wellbeing and help tackle food poverty amid the cost-of-living crisis.”

“Funds raised will be used for food parcels, hot food and drinks, homeless outreach and for delivering emergency financial support to cover heating bills or essential supplies for those in need. It means everyone is playing their part, and we look forward to more partners joining us to ensure its success,” he added.

And with this enlightening approach,….The devil on my shoulder is getting the brush off.

Coming across this brilliant initiative could not have come at a better time for me. I don’t mind admitting that, as a dedicated business event and tourism advocate, I’ve been struggling with an internal tussle about how my beloved industry contributes to climate change with its associated impacts. Today I am reminded of how a new perspective on business event attraction can help to change the narrative.

“This important initiative is part of our long-term commitment to deliver more sustainable events, drive regenerative tourism growth that leaves a lasting legacy which has our people and their needs at its heart.” 

Thank you, Gerry Lennon and team. You have inspired a refreshed perspective of my work with DMO and CVB partners. The time is now to re-evaluate the events that we seek to attract to our regions, leaning into new models such as the Quadruple Helix Model: I was alerted to this model by a recent Destinations International article.

The Quadruple Helix is an innovation and collaboration model with a citizen/end-user perspective. The model is useful in innovation processes where citizens’ needs are central, for example, in health care and public e-services. 1

1 In For Care: Informal care and voluntary assistance:

Innovation in service delivery in the North Sea Region.

As event professionals and destination management representatives, we need to start asking new questions, different questions.

  • What are our region’s social progression gaps?
  • Where are our residents struggling?
  • How can the business events we host in our region facilitate valuable conversations to move these issues forward?
  • How can our region benefit from the knowledge experts we invite to host these discussions to help us set the legacy wheels in motion?

This is the tip of the iceberg, and I will return to this train of thought in the future.

So, for now, here are a couple of startling stats from Food Banks Canada and a call to action:

34% of those relying on food banks nationally are children when they only represent 19% of the population.

40% of the food distributed by Canadian food banks is fresh. (eg. Milk, eggs, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, bread.

Can two little words on your next shopping list help turn the tide?