The speed in which our Community Food Hubs have been established is testament to the speed in which the Community Centres within our network can respond to local need. For almost two months now we have seen demand for essential food parcels and cooked food escalate – week one saw approximately 150 individuals supported and by week eight this was in excess of 4000.
Food parcels are made possible through donations from the Felix Project, FareShare, among others, which receive tonnes of surplus fresh food that cannot be sold, along with donations from local supermarkets, and the Government. Have a look at the photos to see some of what the Hubs have received over the past couple of months. We’ve also been able to develop relationships with local cafes and restaurants willing to cook up meals for local delivery – for free … this is just amazing isn’t it!
We know that we will struggle to maintain the existing levels of demand for food, however, we fear that the supply will start to reduce, yet we predict that demand will increase as those most vulnerable fall deeper into poverty. So, what should we do about this?
Personally, I think that we should encourage people to grow food for the local community. I also think that we should be encouraging local food growers to donate a patch or their surplus produce to the Community Food Hubs. Why? I read recently that since the Covid-19 lock-down only 10% of food being bought or accessed is fresh – most people are buying frozen or tinned food, which does not amount to a balanced diet. So, this means very limited access to and consumption of fruit and vegetables.
Of course, community food growing in this way is not without challenges, but I have been inspired by an article in the RHS ‘Grass Roots’ magazine (Spring 2020 issue), which not only tells us all about the fantastic events that were planned as part of the RHS Grow Social initiative, but also highlights how socially-distanced community growing can help address the UK’s loneliness epidemic, which has been exacerbated by Covid-19. Most interesting of all (to me, anyway) was the article on ‘Growing for Food Banks’, which featured an emerging partnership between schools, food banks, faith organisations and a band of community growers in Gateshead (in the North East of England), mainly to tackle ‘holiday hunger’.
The ‘Growing for Food Banks’ article goes on to highlight the Penrith in Bloom approach which has been to establish a small community of growers who would normally use food banks by setting aside a growing plot for an annual fee of £5, but this comes with the request that 10% of their produce is given away to others in need.
So, with these inspired examples in mind, we want to reach out to and encourage residents with street properties, those with the right kind of space on housing estates and those with access to designated ‘meanwhile spaces’ to start growing food and to encourage growers with allotments to set aside and/or donate some of their produce to the Community Food Hubs in Islington. We’ve got a good example of neighbourhood growing in Islington – the Blackstock Triangle Gardeners, which started in 2009 – we just need more of these to develop and flourish – find out more here.