Visit Belfast has announced a new sustainable tourism initiative aimed at tackling food poverty in the city.
The “Changing the Menu. For Good” project will enlist venues, caterers and event organisers to directly raise funds for local food banks, including The People’s Kitchen.
The scheme, which will run as a six month pilot into next year, is designed to drive more responsible and sustainable events and to promote social impact and legacy within local communities.
Event organisers can choose from a variety of ways to donate, including donating the financial equivalent of a fourth course, donating a proportion of catering costs incurred during an event, rounding up delegate or catering fees or donating directly.
The ‘Changing the Menu. For Good’ initiative is already supported by a group of founding partners in the event industry; Hastings Hotels, Titanic Belfast, Hospitality Belfast/Yellow Door, Food NI, Conference Partners International, Crowne Plaza Belfast, Event-ful and Queen’s University Belfast.
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 well-being, and help tackle food poverty amid the cost-of-living crisis.
“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. 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.”
Paul McCusker, founder of the independently run charity The People’s Kitchen that provides support to over 1,000 of the most marginalised and vulnerable people in Belfast weekly added: “The vital work of The People’s Kitchen is more important than ever, we are currently dealing with and servicing unprecedented demand, with over 1,000 meals served and 500 food parcels provided in the city per week. However, there is still so much work to do to reach the most vulnerable in our city.
“As an independent charity, we rely heavily on supporter funding, initiatives like Changing the Menu. For Good, are invaluable and crucial to ensure we can deliver the immediate support required.”
Visit Belfast is targeting a significant number of business events, gala dinners and conferences booked in the city, and event organisers already on board include, PHUSE EU Connect (The Global Healthcare Data Science Community), Business Travel Association and The Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance.
It is hoped that as the scheme grows, and more conference and event organisers get involved, local food banks and the vital work of The People’s Kitchen will get the support they require to help those in need.