Food NI CEO, Michele Shirlow, awarded MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2017

Food NI Chief Executive Michele Shirlow has been awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, receiving the award in recognition for her services to the food and drink sector in Northern Ireland.

Michele is the driver behind Food NI, the membership organisation designed to connect the supply chain through a positive promotional message about Northern Ireland’s food and drink and was the driving force behind the successful Northern Ireland Year of Food & Drink 2016 campaign.

She was personally responsible for raising £800,000 private sector funding from retailers and industry to develop the ‘Northern Ireland – Good Food Is In Our Nature’ campaign. The success of this campaign led to the formation of Food NI.  She was tasked with setting up the new body, established on the recommendation of the Food Strategy Implementation Partnership (FSIP), and in 2007 was appointed inaugural Chief Executive.

From 2004 to 2011 Michele was Governor of Oakwood Integrated Primary School and a Member of their Finance & Recruitment Committee. Over the years she has been involved with extensive charity work, including donating food, cookery equipment and time to a number of not for profit organisations and charities, including Women’s Institute talks, Artisan Food Group talks, Charity Cookery Nights in aid of Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children, Open Farm Weekend, Women’s Groups and School Groups.

Following on from Year of Food and Drink 2016, Food NI recently announced a five-year plan to further promote Northern Ireland’s produce overseas and at home.  The ‘Taste the Greatness’ strategy is aimed at telling our quality food stories in an impactful, far-reaching and compelling way, by promoting Northern Ireland as a place where the greatness of our passion, people, places and produce will be heard on an international scale.

Food NI Chairman, John Best said, “On behalf of myself and the Food NI board, we are delighted that our Chief Executive Michele Shirlow has been awarded the MBE in the 2017 Birthday Honours.  We feel that this award is a very worthy recognition of her contribution to the N.I. agri-food and drink sector. Her commitment, passion and sheer determination has ensured that Food NI has become the lead organisation in promoting local produce and producers to consumers.

“As well as her central role in the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink, Michele’s other initiatives have included establishing restaurant weeks, assisting in the significant growth of food tour start-ups and working in partnership with local councils throughout Northern Ireland to promote food networks and events such as the Legenderry Food Festival and the BBC Good Food Show in Belfast” added John.

On hearing the news Michele commented.’ It has been an honour to work with Northern Ireland farmers, producers and restaurateurs over the last ten years, their enthusiasm and passion for what they do has made it a real pleasure. Thank you to all of the Board and all the team at FoodNI for their hard work. I feel hugely privileged to receive this award and want to thank everyone who worked to make the Year of Food and Drink such a success. ’