British Food Fortnight tees up Olympic celebrations

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The ninth British Food Fortnight, which took place from 18 September to 3 October 2010, fired the starting gun for food celebrations during the Olympics with the biggest ever national celebration of British food.

This year’s event was a warm-up for 2012 when the dates of British Food Fortnight will change, for one year only, to run at the same time as the London Olympics.

Shops, pubs and restaurants responded to the challenge by trial running patriotic British food promotions in preparation for welcoming the world to Britain. Highlights included:

  • This year’s British Food Fortnight reached an unprecedented number of people. Thousands of events were held with food festivals in more than half the English counties; a national school cooking competition led by the BBC’s Hairy Bikers and Michaela Strachan; cooking lessons in Sure Start Children’s Centres in some of the most deprived areas of Britain; healthy eating activities in more than 20 universities; foraging walks, food trails and fungi forays; a huge British food promotion in Harrods; a Harvest Swap Shop in St Paul’s Cathedral; food celebrations throughout St. Pancras International train station; fruit and vegetable shows; wild night feasts; a Giant Beanstalk competition for children; Battle of the Bangers competition between butchers; a Moveable Feast with courses at different restaurants; a Union Jack coloured meal promotion; a challenge to cook 5,000 British breakfasts in 96 care homes for the elderly; Plot to Plate cooking demonstrations; Meet the Farmer events, school trips to farms and even a British menu for animals in a zoo
  • More British food was consumed through the catering sector over the two weeks than ever before with nine of the largest food service organisations, led by ARAMARK; eight major pub groups led by Young’s; all the chef associations; the National Trust; Youth Hostel Association and many others all putting British food on the menu. The public sector supported the event with major hospitals, school catering services and the Cabinet Office offering special menus. And on the high street, hundreds of shops sported the Union Jack with tastings, meet-the-producer events and special offers on British food
  • More than 20 universities across Britain rose to the challenge with British Food Fortnight promotions – in conjunction with the Department of Health’s 5 A Day programme – in student cafes and canteens; stalls at Freshers’ Fairs promoting the healthy benefits of British seasonal food; and cooking demonstrations of simple recipes for students
  • British Food Fortnight’s long established initiative of sending chefs into schools to teach children how to cook expanded into Sure Start Children’s Centres. Parents using the centres were taught how to cook, where to buy healthy food and how to incorporate 5 A Day into their family’s meals leading up to a British Food Fortnight Feast during the event. The activity was trialed in eight centres across the country with some courses three-times oversubscribed
  • This year’s British Food Fortnight School Challenge was the biggest yet with hundreds of pre, primary, secondary and special needs schools taking part. Pupils picked berries from local fruit farms and the countryside and made their own smoothies, crumbles and jams; turned the school timetable into a British food week; visited farms; invited local WI members, chefs and even parents into school to taste and judge their menus; composed an ‘Oh Lovely Healthy Smoothie’ song to the tune of Hokey Cokey; held imaginative harvest festival celebrations; and were invited into local hotels and restaurants to help design menus. Three schools even got together and created a five-metre tall mountain of British butties! Judging is now underway to select the winning school that will be invited to London in the New Year to cook for HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and the Hairy Bikers

Alexia Robinson, organiser of the event, said: “With the Olympics coming to Britain we have the opportunity of a lifetime to bring the best of British food to the world. This year’s British Food Fortnight is a rallying cry for shops, pubs and restaurants to start planning patriotic food promotions now. Rather like an Olympic athlete we have got 21 months to prepare and go for gold in 2012 on menus and shop-shelves. The countdown starts now.”

British Food Fortnight 2010 was sponsored by ARAMARK, Budgens and the Department of Health’s 5 A Day Just Eat More (fruit & veg) programme. It is supported by over 70 organisations led by 3663, Brakes, National Farmers’ Union, National Trust, Oxford Hotels and Inns, Compass Group, Mitchells & Butlers, Tenant Farmers Association, Young’s pubs and Youth Hostel Association.

British Food Fortnight 2011 takes place 17 September to 2 October 2011.

In Olympic year, British Food Fortnight takes place from 27 July to 12 August 2012. For further information see www.lovebritishfood.co.uk