Over the summer 36 Bridport residents took part in four focus groups looking at what makes our food culture special and what we can do to preserve and strengthen it.The research project, NuFEAST, led by Bournemouth academic and nutritionist Dr Juliet Wiseman sets out to explore how sustainable food and eating practices, including growing food at home, in community gardens and allotments, is associated with food knowledge, confidence and skills and ‚Äúnutritional well-being.”

Focus groups were held at Waitrose, St Mary’s School, Mountfield and the Flourish Pop-up Wellbeing Cafe. Each one drew quite a different crowd and so made for very stimulating conversations. The sessions were all filmed and are currently in the process of being transcribed and analysed.

Initial findings suggest that Bridport is fortunate to have retained so many independent food and drink producers and retailers which provides shoppers with the opportunity to buy and enjoy good local food. This is certainly not the case everywhere and the human scale of Bridport’s centre is also key to an enjoyable shopping experience.

Bridport’s reputation for great food is the result of the huge efforts of many people over many years and is supported by a special ecosystem of small-scale producers who are also active land rights campaigners. The influence of River Cottage, Trill Farm and nearby Tamarisk Farm, the first organic farm in the area, also plays a major role.

A strong Grow Your Own culture also exists and complements the sense of community people feel when they are able to actually meet and develop relationships with food producers and retailers. So much so that some participants had even moved to the area because of how impressed they are by the food culture here.

But there are also tensions – particpants felt food can also be socially divisive and easy access to good food isn’t universal. Engaging working parents can be tricky when it takes time, money, knowledge and confidence to make the most of the great produce on offer.

One thing is for sure: closer collaboration between food producers, retailers, educators, academics and policy makers is certainly necessary if the diverse and rich food culture in Bridport is to be strengthened and preserved. Watch this space!