Dietitian Susan Morgan looks back at her time here in her last blog for us before leaving the Food Partnership and Brighton for a new role.
by Susan Morgan
Where to begin? Nine years ago I joined the city’s newly formed weight management team as part of the growing Food Partnership.
Now with a total permanent staff of around twenty, plus shorter term contracted staff and interns as well as the occasional student and more volunteers than possible to mention and not forgetting the sturdy support of its board members, thousands of public members and Food Matters, here we are almost a decade later.
My job over the years has involved spreading the messages of back-to-basics healthy eating, food and nutrition and dispelling many food myths along the way with the aim of encouraging better health, in clinic and group settings as well as at numerous events all over the city.
It’s a unique place for a dietitian to work –it constantly reminds me of the whole food picture. This was the main attraction all those years ago, a place where it’s in the job description to think about and talk about food in all its glorious aspects every day – real food, no supplements, no nonsense.
The city behind the lights
Despite living in Brighton for some time, I would never have got to see the city as it really is beyond the façade of the luminous lights of the seafront had it not been for the travels my role has taken me on. It’s been an eye opener in so many ways, such a privilege and so humbling too – all the stories of lives shared through the people I’ve met along the way.
The Food Partnership has always proudly stuck to its core values around promoting a fair sustainable food system including a focus on good food as a key to health and getting back to basics – upskilling through practical cookery courses and the like.
It’s thanks to the Food Partnership’s diversity that St Peter’s on the Steine and other local community venues are the proud owners of compost bins, enabling them to do their bit for the environment as well as the other amazing things they do– who would have thought it?
These days we like to think of ourselves as ‘a hub of information, inspiration and connection around food’. It’s only taken the best part of that decade to come up with this relatively concise way to attempt to sum up what we do.
Of course whilst sticking to those core values, change is almost inevitable.
My role started out with the very snazzy title of ‘weight management dietitian (stop smoking)’ and now my role is nothing like it was then and that’s such a good thing and one of the main reasons I’ve happily remained here all these years.
I have ended up going full circle back to recently running clinics in Moulsecoomb and Whitehawk after having a stint at every other venue we currently have on our books.
Precious memories of a community garden
As a dietitian I’ve been lucky to have the opportunities to diversify into working with the local football club in schools and supporting and managing a proportion of our wonderful volunteers – it’s simply amazing.
It has bought unexpected moments too. Where else would I have had the chance to visit a community garden – as part of continuing professional development, to expand my local knowledge of other wonderful services that are available through the Food Partnership to the people of Brighton and Hove – tidying up a rather overgrown spot then picking runner beans while getting an insight into how much this, one of many, amazing outdoor spaces has helped people through challenging life events and all in a mornings work?
To top it off, we ate lunch around an open fire on which freshly picked and washed potatoes sizzled away. As I washed up near a pond, alongside a young guy with Down’s syndrome and another chap who sat nearby doing his best to recover from drug addiction just taking it all in, a lime green dragonfly floated above our heads. You can’t put a price on an experience like that.
With Partnership in the name, it’s no surprise a strong structure has always been in place to bring staff together regularly.
Staff away days – where we give our brains a real work out outlining plans for the coming months – were once big on team bonding tasks which I slightly miss and as you might predict included finding funny food facts out about each other (there was shock horror when I revealed a dislike for melted cheese) and these days are tending to favour a day out on a farm.
We know one of the many amazing things about food is how it can bring people together. The array of food that’s always turning up in our staff kitchen – not just the usual holiday gifts, the many great kitchen experiments that get bought in and shared but also the fresh produce from the local allotments and gardens is incredible.
At this time of year the array of pickles, soups and chutneys to appear are almost out of this world.
From food to football
Talking of partners, how could I write this without giving the Albion in the Community team a mention? They inspired me, for one thing, to enjoy my first proper football match in a stadium. I have a very simple way of deciding if it was a good game – the more goals, the better. So it was with great joy that I got to witness the Seagulls win a match 5-0.
As with all good things they must eventually come to their natural conclusion and so as I close one chapter and start a new one elsewhere I’m both sad to be leaving and equally excited to take all the insight and experiences I’ve gained, to another county in the Heart of England where another new weight management service is just beginning…
Ps. Long live the BHFP!