How to Cook a Community Food Project

In 2020, during the second COVID lockdown, a new food project started in the town of Wiveliscombe in Somerset.   The idea had been kicking around even before COVID; to find a way of taking surplus food from the shops and turning it into nutritious meals.  But COVID isolations and lockdowns brought a new focus.

Wiveliscombe is a small market town, nestling in the foothills of Exmoor. It has just under 3,000 residents but is well provided for with local shops and services given its large rural catchment area. The population profile leans towards the older end of the spectrum. In terms of wealth and poverty levels it is middling; some people are very comfortable while others are struggling to get by.

The food project has brought all kinds of people together, some motivated by the desire to help their neighbours, many inspired by Marcus Rashford’s work on food poverty and others arriving from climate and environmental campaign groups.  

To help communities learn from and possibly duplicate the project, we’ve set out details of the project below, in the form of a (relatively easy to follow) recipe.

Good luck – it’s a delicious feast!

Ingredients

1 x chef.  Kate is our resident chef. She trained at Leiths School of Food and Wine in London before becoming a food writer and then running the cookery school at Bordeaux Quay in Bristol.

1 x steering group. Three local people including Kate. Rosie coordinates the volunteers and prepares the work rotas. Sue does all the outreach in the community. 

1 x kitchen. We were lucky to find that our rugby club at fitted out its kitchen to a professional standard about 10 years ago. A new committee wanted the club to be more active in the community, just as the food project started looking for premises. 

65kg food donation per week.  Our food comes from Fairshare in Bristol, picked up from their Taunton depot every Tuesday.  We don’t know what we’re getting until we get it.

A generous pinch of storage for food, ingredients, fridges and freezers.

1 bunch of other food donations.  People have been dropping in surplus veg from their allotments.  A local farmer brought a tray of rejected eggs.

Assorted extra ingredients to taste.  There’s always something extra needed to turn the Fairshare supplies into a tasty meal. 

50 volunteers. In the first three weeks over 50 people came forward to be involved.  Some have lots of catering experience, others have none. Some will be beneficiaries of the project.  They work in teams of 8 on a monthly rotation.  About 20 have taken their Level 2 Food Hygiene certificates since we started.  Nine volunteers are drivers for food deliveries.

1 x host organisation.  Everything was setup really quickly so no time to constitute ourselves.  Wivey Cares is a local charity providing support for vulnerable residents and they kindly agreed to be our official face.

1 x community freezer.  The local church has allowed their freezer to be a community pick-up point for frozen meals. Customers simply log what they take.

Start-up funding. We had to get going at a rapid pace. Kate put in her own money to pay for publicity materials, essential equipment (knives, kitchen scrubs etc), initial rent and supplies.

Weekly costs. The kitchen costs £50/week. Fairshare costs £25/week.  Other ingredients and supplies cost £50-100/week.

Preparation

  1. Kate was in touch with a number of Somerset food initiatives and the Council about a potential project in the area that could help address COVID hardship. Meanwhile other local people were thinking about a project to tackle food waste.
  2. Fairshare were approached but had no slots for the next few months. However, a local council officer was visiting Fairshare when a vacancy came up, and was able to promote the Wiveliscombe project as ‘oven ready’. Back in Wiveliscombe, confidence and experience had to make up for the lack of funding and a business plan but nevertheless food deliveries started the following week.
  3. Six local people quickly got together to make a plan. There was a huge rush to produce publicity, attract volunteers, get people through their Level 2 food hygiene certificates, find a kitchen, and buy equipment. 
  4. A Saturday street stall raised awareness. A test run in the kitchen provided hot soup for shoppers and brought in much needed donations.

Recipe 

(Serves 300)

  1. On Tuesday, armed with coolboxes and ice, Kate collects the Fairshare supplies from the depot 12 miles away. She takes it back to Wiveliscombe where she sorts through and logs everything, and refrigerates where necessary (she has a number of fridges in an out-building).
  2. Wednesday is spent planning recipes, buying any extra ingredients.
  3. 8am on Thursday, Kate arrives at the kitchen. A team of 8 volunteers follows – some of whom do the full day while others are replaced for the afternoon shift. It’s a COVID-safe workplace, but there’s an energetic vibe and spirits are high. The morning is spent prepping – chopping vegetables, making sauces, roasting vegetables, cooking chicken.
Tomato sauce prepped in the morning, ready for liquidising
  1. A hearty lunch is served (made during the morning) to all the volunteers.
  2. The afternoon is spent cooking the finished meals, combining the prepped ingredients from the morning and then packing into pots. Labels are attached and then they’re frozen.
  3. Cleaning up the kitchen and returning everything to the stores.
  4. Friday is distribution day with volunteers delivering meals, sometimes a full week’s worth, to those who need them.  Supplies are also being delivered to the substance abuse and homelessness teams in a nearby town. Other meals are put in the freezer at the church where people can collect them according to their own need.  Some people want to pay – a guide price of £2/meal is given.  If 50% of people pay, that covers all the costs.
  5. Saturday. A stall outside the shops to drum up extra interest.  Hot soup is served in exchange for donations, which are sometimes very generous. 
Veggie beef stew

On the second week this is how it went.  The Fairshare supplies included:

  • 3 boxes of tofu turkey
  • 1 case of coconuts
  • 12 butternut squash
  • ½ case of sweet potatoes
  • ½ case of limes
  • Loads of potatoes
  • Pumpkins
  • Yellow peppers
  • Malformed skinless sausages
  • Wonky carrots
  • Chicken drumsticks
  • Vegan beef
  • 2 cases of soya milk
  • 30kg of dried fruit
  • Mozzarella and cheddar cheese

Extra supplies bought included soya sauce, lemon grass, olive oil, celery, foil and other small but essential items.

The finished meals included:

  • Three different soups (carrot & ginger, Thai vegetable and roast vegetable)
  • Veggie chicken pie with carrots and mash
  • Veggie beef and mash
  • Chicken stew with chard / carrots and mash / rice
  • Meatball casserole
  • Macaroni cheese

Number of meals cooked: 300

Volunteers also took home portions of the dried fruit to make Christmas cakes for distribution through the project.

After-dinner chat

After three weeks the project is going very well.  The number of volunteers is growing, a grant application of £7500 has been approved (to be used for buying equipment), and all the key partners are very much on board (the rugby club even replaced a professional grade fridge which wasn’t chilling to the required temperatures).

Kate, the chef, has been key to the project working.  We are lucky to have someone with her experience of large scale catering and training.  But anyone with restaurant kitchen or catering experience will know how to prepare and produce meals at this scale.

There are questions about who is benefitting. The data (e.g. free school meals numbers in local schools) suggests that people in need are out there, but the GPs, NHS and Council will not share the information they hold.  So distribution relies upon word of mouth and local publicity.  In many cases people are collecting for vulnerable neighbours.  In other cases it might be people who have not eaten properly at home for years and welcome this helping hand.  

Ability to pay is not always the obstacle to people eating healthy meals – so some are grateful for the meal and are very eager to pay.

There seem to be very few families using the service – it’s most people living alone.  How to reach those most in need (an estimated 200 families) and overcome their obstacles? Pride is thought to be a factor, so the project needs to present itself as empowering, not demeaning.

It is possible that some people who are not in need are taking meals.  The response to this is philosophical; a few people exploiting the system can be overlooked so long as the greater good is being served.

Not all meals are popular in this part of the country where meat still comes with two veg. Feedback on the beetroot soup from one elderly lady: “I’m not having that again – it went straight through me”. Other ingredients are alien to some customers – celeriac, what’s that?  Popular dishes include those with mashed potato.

Volunteers are learning so much from Kate who is bringing the tricks of the trade from restaurant kitchens to this community food project.  Huge amounts of preparation are essential, whether it is chopping vegetables, or preparing sauces that are then used in a number of different dishes. Efficiency in time, effort and use of ingredients are the keys to success (and knowing how to make it wonderfully tasty!).

Future plans include community vegetable growing and community meals (a bit like the British Restaurants in the 1940s) although that will have to wait for post-COVID times.

Can it be sustained? The project places a big demand on Kate, but she has trained many chefs and cooks in the past so the plan is that she brings on enough volunteers to be able to run the project without her.  As a social enterprise the project could be financially viable if about half the meals made are paid for.

Links

Wivey Food Project https://www.facebook.com/wiveyfoodproject/

Wivey Cares https://wiveycares.net

National Park and AONB Review

The Government has announced a review of National Park and AONB designations and roles.  Malvern Hills AONBThe terms of reference for the review, that starts in June and will report in 2019, are:

  • the existing statutory purposes for National Parks and AONBs and how effectively they are being met
  • the alignment of these purposes with the goals set out in the 25-Year Plan for the Environment
  • the case for extension or creation of new designated areas
  • how to improve individual and collective governance of National Parks and AONBs, and how that governance interacts with other national assets
  • the financing of National Parks and AONBs
  • how to enhance the environment and biodiversity in existing designations
  • how to build on the existing eight-point plan for National Parks and to connect more people with the natural environment from all sections of society and improve health and wellbeing
  • how well National Parks and AONBs support communities

Expanding on work already underway, the review will also take advice from Natural England on the process of designating National Parks and AONBs and extending boundary areas, with a view to improving and expediting the process.

The terms of reference also state:

“In 1949, the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act established these national parks, which the minister of the day described as “the most exciting Act of the post-war Parliament.” That legislation created a statutory framework for National Parks and AONBs. In brief, National Parks’ purposes are to conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage; and promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of national parks. For AONBs, the primary purpose is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area. Now, as the oldest National Park approaches its 70th anniversary, comes a chance to renew this mission. That is the context in which this review takes place.”

The review will hear evidence from interested groups and individuals.

Quantock Hills AONBFunding of AONBs will be a key issue. Traditionally they have been the poorer relative, dependent upon support and finances from their local councils, whereas the National Parks are nationally funded.  With local government finances under increasing amounts of pressure for the last 10 years and competing demand for resources for education, social care etc, AONBs have really struggled to secure their positions. Many have had to reduce their staff teams and activities down to a basic core. At the same time an inherent conservatism amongst some residents of AONBs, many of whom will have spent significant amounts moving into a protected landscape, have made it difficult for AONBs to diversify their activities and create new economic opportunities. The government’s review is perhaps the time to put AONB funding on a more secure and sustainable footing.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/designated-landscapes-national-parks-and-aonbs-2018-review/terms-of-reference

Community Plan update for Lawrence Weston

We’re working with the wonderful people at Ambition Lawrence Weston to update their Community Plan.

Lawrence Weston Community Plan workshopIn March Julian facilitated a one day workshop for local residents and workers. We considered the achievements of the 2013 Plan, the five year context (which you can see on YouTube) and priorities for the local area. There was even a pub quiz on the results of the community survey.

We’re now doing lots of data crunching and preparing a draft of the updated plan. This will go for further consultation and ultimately adoption by Ambition.

Who is the new developer for Bristol Carriageworks?

Carriageworks facadeThe Carriageworks has a new developer!  Following much recent speculation the Carriageworks Action Group has confirmed that the new developer is the Bristol based PG Group. PG have exchanged contracts with Opecprime (aka Comer Homes) to purchase the freehold of the Carriageworks and Westmoreland House site and aim to start building in January.

Stuart Gaiger, PG Group Development Director, said: PG Group logo - new developer of Carriageworks“The PG Group has acquired the site from Opecprime Properties Ltd with the benefit of the planning consent granted in July last year, and will now start work on a wide range of preliminary assessments,”

Gaiger went on to say that purchase of the site would allow the creation of a development that could contribute positively to an already vibrant community. “We want to deliver an enterprising development that respects and reflects the community ethos and, given the independent spirit that flourishes around the area, we look forward to some lively and interesting discussions.”

Lori Streich, Chair of Carriageworks Action Group, said: “We welcome this news that PG Group are buying the Carriageworks and Westmoreland House site. For over 25 years the communities adjoining Stokes Croft have lived with the neglect and dereliction. As a local developer we hope that PG Group will have the skill and commitment to deliver a development of which the community can be proud”.

Stuart Gaiger and his colleagues from the PG Group will be attending a Community Meeting on Wednesday 14 June, 6pm at the Kings Centre, King Square where they will say more about their plans and proposals to get the development going.

2MD’s Role with Carriageworks Action Group

2MD Regeneration has been facilitating and advising the Carriageworks Action Group(CAG) since it was formed in 2011.

  • We coordinated the consultation and writing of the Community Vision, published in 2012, which was subsequently adopted by Bristol City Council and became the ‘moral high ground’ for all proposals for the site.
  • We supported CAG and provided technical advice while the City Council started compulsory purchase (CPO) proceedings in 2012/13, culminating in the appointment of Knightstone as the preferred developer. However, the site owners then granted an option to purchase to London based Fifth Capital. This put the CPO process onto hold and Knightstone subsequently withdrew. Fifth Capital submitted a planning application in 2014.
  • We provided critique and commentary on the proposals which attracted 1400 objections and a referral by the Planning Committee back to the applicant with an instruction that they work with CAG to address a range of shortcomings. Fifth Capital, to their credit, then constructively engaged with CAG and this resulted in planning permission being granted in October 2015.
  • Since then we have supported CAG in its ongoing discussions with Fifth Capital, keeping the pressure on to ensure that the scheme did not grind to a halt amidst funding challenges.
  • Fifth Capital have now been replaced by the PG Group. We continue to support and advise CAG to help ensure that the development delivers the best outcomes for the local community.

Links

Who is PG Group?

What are PG Group’s plans and timescale?

What’s happened to Fifth Capital?

Ten years on, the Tamar Valley trails are flourishing

Back in 2003 I started working with the Tamar Valley AONB, writing the business plan and funding applications for what would become the Tamar Valley Mining Heritage Project.

Tamar Valley Mining Heritage Project early logoIt was an audacious project, born of a dream to conserve the increasingly forgotten mining heritage of the Tamar Valley and give the public access to the adits, railways, calcifiers and beautiful landscape.

£6m investment in the Tamar Valley

The project finally started in 2007 with £6m from nine funders, seven delivery partners and agreements with multiple landowners. Along the way there were many challenges not least the withdrawal of financial support by a key partner, Devon County Council, straight after the 2009 elections which resulted in another partner, Morwellham and Tamar Valley Trust, being pushed into receivership. The loss of Morwellham Quay from the project was a bitter blow but the hard work and commitment of the AONB and other partners saw the project through and finally in 2013 we saw the official launch.

Tamar Trails are a success!

Now threee years later the project is bedded in.  The project legacy is managed by the Tamar Community Trust, a social enterprise specially setup for the purpose, while the visitor hub is run by Tamar Adventures, a local business that provides cycle hire, high ropes, canoe trips and a host of other activities.  Their video gives a great taste of what’s on offer.

And the project even extended to include a Mountain Bike Development Project and the stomach churning Gawton Gravity Hub (more successful business planning and funding applications).

Impact!

Sometimes in this line of work it’s hard to point to the difference you make.  The timescales are long, many people are involved, sometimes projects end up doing something different to the initial intent.  But with the Tamar Trails the results and the difference are there and plain to see. Take a trip there and enjoy the place!

Julian

Stogursey Victory Hall has funding approved

Stogursey Victory HallStogursey Victory Hall has had £400,000 funding approved by West Somerset Council.  The funding will go towards a major upgrade to the hall including refurbishment of the existing hall, an extension with new kitchen, function room and toilets, new changing rooms adjacent to the MUGA, a cover for the MUGA, car parking and landscaping.

In approving the funding members of the Council said that there had been a very impressive 25% response rate to consultation on the proposals. They added that they felt it was an excellent flagship project which would be of huge benefit to the community and a great legacy.

Funding applications have also been submitted to Sport England and Awards for All.

During 2015 we worked with Vivid Regeneration to prepare a feasibility study for the refurbishment.  We’ve been retained to write some of the funding applications and take the project forward to the appointment of architects.

Lawrence Weston – first step to Lottery funding

lawrence weston community hubLawrence Weston Community Hub has passed the first hurdle on its way to securing Lottery funding from the Reaching Communinities programme.

The funding will go towards the cost of providing community facilities in the building as well as management costs in the first few years.

Now it’s a matter of preparing the Stage 2 bid, and then the Stage 3 bid!

The bid writing is being done by the wonderful Helen Bone at Vivid Regeneration. We’re doing the work on the business plan (as well as overall project management).

About the Lawrence Weston Community Hub

Lawrence Weston Community Hub is a new building that will contain a range of services including health, social, economic and education for the community. It is a project being led by Ambition Lawrence Weston in partnership with the City Council and Ridingleaze Surgery. Planning permission was granted in December and we are now working on securing the funding package before moving to detailed design and construction.

 

Planning permission for Lawrence Weston Community Hub

Lawrence Weston Community HubResidents were celebrating today when it was finally confirmed that the Lawrence Weston Community Hub has been given planning permission.

The community hub will provide a much needed facility for the 7,000 residents of Lawrence Weston, a large estate on the north west side of Bristol close to Avonmouth docks and the M5.

Over the years the estate has lost many facilities.  When local development trust Ambition Lawrence Weston carried out research into a new community plan it became apparent that the health and wellbing of residents was suffering.  The idea to invest and replace much of the crumbling infrastructure was then born.

New GP Surgery

The Lawrence Weston Community Hub will be developed on part of the site previously occupied by the City of Bristol College. It will include a new GP surgery to replace the one on Ridingleaze, new clinical treatment rooms, a replacement library, a pharmacy, cafe, community rooms, nursery and office space for hire.

Lawrence Weston Community Hub elevations

The planning application was submitted in March but a decision was slowed down as clarification was sought on traffic impacts, noise impacts and replacement trees. Now that permission has been granted the decisions on capital funding can be made, especially by the City Council and NHSE.

Who’s involved in the Lawrence Weston Community Hub?

Ambition Lawrence Weston are leading the project in partnership with Bristol City Council and the GP Surgery / NHSE / CCG.  2MD are providing project management, working in collaboration with Vivid Regeneration who are leading on funding applications. The Lawrence Weston Community Hub has been designed by GCP architects.

Does this change anything?

Last Monday I was asked to facilitate a discussion between the 70 or so people who had watched Naomi Klein’s film “This Changes Everything” hosted by Wiveliscombe Action on Climate.


The film makes the link between climate change and capitalism, essentially saying that the economic system has to change if we are to have any chance of addressing climate chaos. The New York Times described Klein’s book by the same name as “the most momentous and contentious environmental book since Silent Spring” so its clearly to be taken seriously.  But does it really change anything?

In leading the post-film discussion it was clear that we were amongst friends – everyone there was concerned about climate change, shocked by the impact of big industry on local communities and sympathetic to the general message that change was needed.

But one of the down-sides of getting older is that you see the same things coming round time and again. Another film, another talk, another group of people saying that something has to change. But what really changes?

In the 30 years since I first got involved in the environmental movement there has been much to celebrate.  The environment is now of mainstream concern, recycling is the norm, there is no lead in petrol, the concept of environmental justice is understood, river water quality is way better, the ozone layer is repairing itself, the car is no longer king, and so on. The voice of ordinary people has had some part to play in that.

But s*** still happens and seemingly on an ever-greater scale. Communities and environments are still being destroyed, governments back-pedal on the progress of their predecessors, climate treaties get ignored, the rich get richer and so on. And all this despite countless films, marches, letters, blogs and angst.  So what’s the point?

In the discussion I tried to get people to look at Klein’s argument from different points of view – to take a dialiectic approach.  In that way I hoped we’d come up with a more robust response to the film than just lots of nodding and hand-wringing. It drew out some interesting observations and a diversity of responses. But I still went away feeling that nothing had really changed; just a tendency to expect others to agree with us and then change what they do, but little appetite for more.

Some people (not necessarily those in the room last Monday) advocate a complete overthrow of our economic system, the ruling class and corporate power. But that sort of radical upheavel generally brings with it many unintended consequences. Other people propose nudges. One person who was present at the film talked about influencers in society – the people who will push us past the tipping point at which major change happens. People in the arts often take on that role, to greater or lesser effect, but sports people less so (although they probably have the greater reach). But still I wonder.

Are we just on the wrong trajectory? Is everything just stacked up against regard for the environment and communities as the powerful exploit all in pursuit of more wealth, more power, more consumption? Or is there something, some as yet unidentified thing, that we the little people (and little companies) can do that really would change everything.  If there is, please let me know!

And a final thought: Imagine the impact if David and Victoria Beckham traded in all their properties for a passivhaus, swapped their gas guzzlers for an electric car and went on a global pilgramage to persuade decision makers to address climate change. That might change something!

 

Local groups get £5,000 from Radstock & Westfield Big Local

Radstock and Westfield Big Local Dragons Den winnersTen community groups, charities and good causes have shared £5,000 thanks to the Big Local Radstock and Westfield Dragons’ Den event.

The event was attended by 130 local people and guests.  Seventeen groups had 90 seconds to pitch their ideas, asking for up to £500. Each group was the quizzed by the three dragons: Debbie Ladds from Local Trust, Suzanne Norbury from the Somerset Guardian and Owen Stephens from the Rotary. Local residents were then asked to vote for their favourites.

Breast cancer survivor, Helen Adams, was given overwhelming backing from voters after she was joined by her young children to tell her story and why she wanted to see a Coppafeel day held in Radstock.

Radstock Museum received funding to restore the clock on the front of the museum and pay for a museum café makeover.

A Circus Fun Giant Picnic which will bring together families in Clandown for a Sunday get-together. Performances at Radstock’s Victoria Hall will be more illuminating from now on thanks to funding towards new lighting and young actors from Confessions of the Youth Theatre Company will be making drama accessible to more children by offering affordable sessions.

Mums and babies are also in for a treat when the NCT Baby Cinema comes to offer screening that welcome babies.

Football Friends, a group of young players from Tyning, were given cash to help buy sports and storage equipment to bring together youngsters looking to play the game together while would-be musicians will have a chance to learn guitar thanks to free taster lessons.

Regular Zumba classes will be hosted by charity SWALLOW to give its members with learning difficulties the chance to enjoy the exercise classes.

2MD Regeneration’s role in Big Local

Julian is a Local Trust Rep. Since 2012 he has provided support and guidance to the Radstock and Westfield Big Local Partnership.