British Food Fortnight celebrates 10th anniversary in autumn

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British Food Fortnight, claimed to be the biggest national celebration of the diverse and delicious range of food that Britain produces, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and is planning a series of Olympic-inspired initiatives to make British food centre stage at the London games in 2012.

Running from 17 September to 2 October 2011, hundreds of shops, pubs and restaurants; along with councils, markets, hospitals, tourism attractions and hotels will take part, creating special menus and promotions.

The event is also an established date on the school calendar with lots of schools using it as an opportunity to teach children about food.

More than 70 organisations now take part including over 1,000 independent shops, many of the major supermarkets, nine of the largest food service organisations and eight major pub groups.

According to organisers, retailers report sales increases of 34% as a result; school meals are up 20-50% in participating schools; the largest volunteer movement educating people about food has been founded; St Paul’s Cathedral, St Pancras, Harrods, Wembley Stadium, Downing Street and The Archers are just a few of the famous establishments that have taken part; and media coverage about the event is seen or heard over 300m times every year.

To commemorate 10 years of British Food Fortnight, the public is being invited to vote for their top food spot in Britain.

Voting opens online in June and the winner will be announced at the start of this year’s British Food Fortnight.

Voting will be across all the English counties, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A raft of activities are planned for this year’s event including food festivals; on-a-budget cooking lessons in Sure Start Children’s Centres; healthy eating activities in universities; a network of 9,000 volunteers, led by the BBC’s Hairy Bikers, ready to help schools teach children how to cook; foraging walks, food trails and fungi forays; a harvest swap shop in St. Paul’s Cathedral; fruit and vegetable shows; wild night feasts; Union Jack coloured meal promotions; special meals in care homes for the elderly; plot to plate cooking demonstrations; meet the farmer events, school trips to farms and British menus for animals in the zoo.

All schools in the UK are being invited to design the perfect meal to help athletes go for gold at the Olympics in 2012.

The winning menus will be served to athletes in the Olympic village. Athletes will be photographed commenting on the dishes and their feedback will be sent to the winning schools so they can see how their menus were received. The competition is running during this year’s British Food Fortnight and the winners will be announced at the beginning of 2012.

Eight of the largest food service organisations, led by ARAMARK, six major pub groups, QHotels, all the chef associations and many others are putting British food on the menu during the event.

The public sector is supporting the event en masse with major hospitals, school catering services and even the Cabinet Office taking part.

On the high street, hundreds of shops will be flying the Union Jack for British food.  And politicians will be reminded to put their funding where their mouths are with British Food Fortnight promotions at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.

This year’s event signifies the countdown to 2012 when the dates of British Food Fortnight will change, for one year only, to run at the same time as the London Olympics (27 July to 12 August 2012).

The aim is to stage the biggest showcase of British food the world has ever seen.  The organisers are using this year’s event to rally every shop, pub and restaurant in the country to start planning Love British Food promotions now, so they are ready when the world arrives in Britain next year.

Plans are afoot for Family Feasts, a 2012 school competition and Olympic foodie celebrations in some of the most deprived areas of Britain – all part of the London 2012 Festival.

Organiser Alexia Robinson said: “British Food Fortnight started when the countryside was in the grip of foot and mouth. The aim was to reinvigorate Harvest Festival – the idea of everyone coming together to celebrate the produce of our land; and to make us more like the French and the Italians whose love of their regional foods is ingrained in their national consciousness. Ten years on it is the biggest, and only, food umbrella uniting everyone in the country.

“This year’s event takes place against the backdrop of a sluggish economy. There is a real danger British food will drop off menus to be replaced by cheaper imports, offering higher margins and price promotions will make British food less competitive on shop shelves.

“Pennies are tight but as we enjoy this very patriotic era with the Royal Wedding, Diamond Jubilee and Olympics, we call on everyone to fly the Union Jack for Britain on your plates as well as on your bunting.

The site includes a supermarket watch tool, monitoring what British food is being sold in the big stores, search facilities to find pubs and restaurants serving British food and farm shops or markets, a teacher zone and advice on planning promotions for the Olympics.

Plus Love British Food posters, stickers and all the resources people need to take part in British Food Fortnight.

British Food Fortnight is sponsored by ARAMARK and is supported by over 70 organisations led by 3663, Brakes, Mitchells & Butlers, QHotels, Quality British Turkey and Sodexo.

To find out more visit www.lovebritishfood.co.uk