A Conversation with...
Nutritionist Barbara Bray has a passion for educating people about food and nutrition, and her firm Alo Solutions advises agri-food businesses on nutrition strategy. She has also found time to act as a director of the Oxford Farming Conference. We chatted about her knack for problem-solving, Lockdown and her love of open water swimming.
How do you generally introduce yourself and the work you do?
I normally introduce myself as a Food Safety and Nutrition Consultant and tell people that I help food businesses to make safe, nutritious, and sustainable food. I do this by educating people and helping them develop skills in food safety, HACCP, Food Defence and food fraud management. I support businesses by giving them advice on how to manage issues and implement systems to prevent or reduce problems. I work with them to develop their strategy to include sustainable nutrition, this might be through a workshop or investigating options for partnerships with other organisations who can help.
What do you like most about your job?
I like solving problems, working with people and thinking of ways to make improvements. I find that the same problems crop up in different situations but when people are absorbed in their own business the solution is not always obvious. I work best when I can bounce ideas off others and the type of work that I do is well suited to that. I feel like I have done a good job at the end of the day if I have helped a client to make progress.
If you could change one thing about your job what would it be?
I travel a lot in the UK and overseas and that is the one thing I would change. Ironically, the pandemic meant that I had to implement that change anyway. I think there will still be an element of travel in my role alongside greater use of video conferencing and software tools for data sharing.
Tell me why you decided to become a director of the Oxford Farming Conference.
I attended my first conference in 2018 when a friend and fellow Nuffield Farming Scholar was asked to speak. I went, mainly because I wanted to support her and catch up on news, I thought it was just another agricultural conference. I can honestly say it is one of the best conferences I have attended. The delegate experience from a networking point of view is great and I think it is fantastic in the way it sets the tone for the media and industry for the rest of the year. One of the Emerging Leaders from 2018 prompted me to apply when the call for new directors came out and the more I thought about it the more I realised that it was the perfect opportunity to use my skills in organising events and to bring a network from the food and nutrition sector into the mix. The topic, growing a healthy society, for 2020 played to my strengths and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying to be an OFC director – is there something you wish you had known before you took that step?
I was well briefed before applying so I knew that it is entirely voluntary and that there is a significant time investment. I would recommend that anyone who wishes to apply does their research first. It takes a year to plan the conference in addition to maintaining the required governance of a registered charity and relationships with sponsors, OFC Scholars, Emerging Leaders potential speakers and delegates.
What is your biggest achievement to date – personal or professional?
In 2019 I was awarded an MBE for services to food nutrition. Recognition from the sector for my work is the highest compliment and it has enabled me not only to widen my horizons but also to help others establishing a career in food.
If you could switch jobs with someone, who would it be?
I love the job that I already have and though think it would be great to be a teacher, I’m not sure I have the stamina or the energy. I could imagine switching jobs with a museum or gallery curator for example at the Science Museum or the Tate Gallery. It’s the ideal combination of people, problem solving and project creation for me.
Do you have a mentor or someone whose work inspired you? Who were they and how have they influenced what you do?
The person whose work really inspires me is HRH Princess Anne who is involved with over 300 charities. I started voluntary work as a child and giving service is something that is important to me. I admire The Princess as she expertly manages a relentless schedule and still manages to remain engaged and knowledgeable about all the organisations she works with. When she presented me with my MBE medal at Buckingham Palace, she chatted about the nutrition curriculum in schools, the continuous professional development available from the British Nutrition Foundation and the importance of the food and farming sector. The lady behind me was a nurse and The Princess chatted to her in depth about the nursing profession and its challenges. I find that so impressive.
Given a chance, who would you like to be for a day and why?
Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Space Scientist and Science Communicator. Her ability both to communicate science to the general public and to inspire the next generation to become astronauts, engineers and scientists is absolutely awesome. I can imagine that her days are energetic, filled with passion and enjoyment from planting seeds of ambition in young minds. I’m sure she also has administration and housework to do but I like to think she steps out every day and makes things happen.
What do you do when you aren’t working?
Prior to Lockdown I spent a considerable amount of time visiting family. When that became impossible during Lockdown, I spent even more time on social media, looking for what’s new, sharing ideas and generally absorbing lots of information. I’m usually on a mission to get fit and last year I swam my first mile in Open Water. I’m constantly battling with the threat of pre-diabetes, which is prevalent in my family, and have found open water swimming helpful – physically and mentally – throughout the year.
Barbara Bray runs her own consultancy business in the UK, Alo Solutions Ltd, driving and delivering food safety in food supply chains and advising agri-food businesses on nutrition strategy.
With a passion for educating people about food and nutrition, Barbara Bray is a trustee with portfolio of International Affairs for The Nutrition Society in the UK. Barbara Bray is on the Food Science and Nutrition committee for the Institute of Food Science and Technology and was a director of the 2020 Oxford Farming Conference