Sunday 1 May 2016

Chris Sunderland

Today we will be talking with one of the founders of the Bristol Pound, the Chief Executive of Real Economy Co-operative and social entrepreneur, all in the form of Chris Sunderland.

In case you are unaware, the Bristol Pound is literally Bristol's Pound - a currency exclusive to the city region. As the currency in this area, it keeps money, in turn wealth, in the city - preventing certain businesses from draining the economy by making a large profit off of us and spending it elsewhere. It provides support for local and independent businesses to survive and strive. This is particularly important due to the current climate of globalisation and mass ownership.


Through Chris' most recent project, the Real Economy Co-op, he is aiming to transform the current food-market system. Again he seems to be aiming to reinstate financial justice, but this time with a focus on the market that is fundamental to everyone’s lives - food:

"Whether it’s hyper-low supermarket prices that eat into farmers’ livelihoods, or food-banks that many find an undignified response to a worsening crisis, we want to change the status quo so the food system treats everyone with respect."

Thank you Chris we are appreciative of the humanistic work you have done within the city. May we now ask you some questions, as a food blog.

GM: Have you eaten any deliciously, stomach-smiling meals recently? If so, please explain.

CS: My wife recently made an amazing polenta cake with redcurrants from the bushes in our lane.

GM: I get stressed just from listening to the 6 o'clock news, I imagine setting up a currency and now a progressive food co-operative must have been a challenge - what sort of food do you like to eat after a tiring and tedious day of work?

CS: My best thoughts usually go to the produce from my allotment. I feel really good about using what I have grown and dreaming up a dish with that.

GM: After creating the Bristol Pound with your colleagues, you started another; the Real Economy Co-operative is a food cooperative for people who care about food and our food system. Where are you finding the inspiration to create such new projects?

CS: My energy comes from a longing to live a more rooted life, building community and working in harmony with the natural world.

GM: What specifically motivated you to start Real Economy, why the food industry?

CS: I saw that food was at the centre of it all. Community life has always revolved around food. Through food we can get back in touch with the land, with the seasons and with the real people who grow food around us.

GM: At the moment their are 8 Real Economy Food Clubs in Bristol: Greenway Central, Montepelier, St Pauls, Avonmounth, Barton Hill, Emersons Green, St. Nicholas' Market and Easton. Are there any new locations on the horizon?

CS:  We are opening a food club at the Vassal Centre in Fishponds and at Hanham Hall this week. More will follow.

GM: Most districts of Bristol have a health food, organic food, or ethical co-operative shop now. I am not trying to sway you into slandering these businesses, but in comparison what are the benefits of purchasing food shopping through REC?

CS:  We share many of the aims of other independent food providers and wish them well. In order to minimise any sense of competition we target our efforts to areas where there is little choice but to go to the supermarket and where people are on tight budgets. The special thing about Real Economy is the formation of Food Clubs in neighbourhoods, where we encourage an interest in food, learning to cook and visits to producers.

GM: Can you use Bristol Pounds to buy food through Real Economy? And do you foresee these two projects meeting in any other way, they are both contributory for a healthy, local economy.

CS: Yes people can certainly use Bristol Pounds as well as sterling to buy their food through us. Real Economy arose from the Bristol Pound initiative and provides a means for people to spend a major budget item, namely their food, in the local currency.

GM: Is there anything else that you would like to say about food, or the current state of the food system?

CS:  It is tough to be a food producer today. Margins are small and the behaviour of buyers is not always good. We want to support local food producers by giving them a fair  and reliable return. We want to support our members by helping them see that food is more than a product.  

Brilliant, thank you again, we will follow your projects eagerly.

Interviewed by Greg Macalla
find more on:

No comments:

Post a Comment