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, caterer and teacher at Bordeaux Quay in Bristol and her own Walled Garden Cookery School in Cornwall.

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

1 x kitchen. We were lucky to find that our rugby club had 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 Fareshare 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 several trays of ‘small’ eggs. 

Assorted extra ingredients to taste.  There’s always something extra needed to turn the Fareshare 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 6 on a monthly rotation.  About 20 have taken their Level 2 Food Hygiene certificates since we started.  Ten 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. Wivey Cares enabled us to get our publicity materials, the Rugby Club offered us the first month rent free and people donated generously to our weekly costs. Kate also put in her own money to get things going.

Weekly costs. The kitchen costs £50/week. Fareshare 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. Fareshare were approached but had no slots for the next few months. However, a local council officer was visiting Fareshare 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 Fareshare 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.  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 Fareshare 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 2kg 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 £5,000 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.  The project is very aware of the need to protect the confidentiality of anyone receiving meals & in some situations is working through ‘gatekeepers’ who distribute the meals so the project never knows the identity of the recipients.    

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.  Sue liaises with the schools, surgery, local parish councils, churches and village agents to build up our client base. People are encouraged to self-refer. So far, most of those using the service have been people living alone, often the elderly & families needing extra support, some living in isolated rural areas. 

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. We hope to access more families & children, working through the schools.

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!).

Kate is also live broadcasting cooking lessons from the kitchen every Thursday morning – see the Facebook page for the Ready Steady Cooking Classes!

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

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.

Stogursey Victory Hall plans get thumbs up

Stogursey Victory Hall

The people of Stogursey have approved proposals to refurbish and improve the Victory Hall.

Throughout 2015 the Victory Hall Committee has been working with Stogursey Parish Council, West Somerset Council, 2MD Regeneration and Vivid Regeneration to work out how best to improve the 60 year old hall.  After much consultation with local people, groups and businesses the Committee has agreed on three major steps:

  • The old youth centre will be demolished
  • The existing Victory Hall will be refurbished and extended to include a new youth centre, an additional function room, a new and larger kitchen and new toilets.
  • The existing all weather sports pitch will be covered and be extended with new changing rooms.

Chris Ford, Chair of the Victory Hall Committee, said “The Victory Hall has served us well but times move on and the requirements we have of the building have changed. The sports facilities in particular need to be improved and young people also deserve better. The proposals will help provide a 21st century facility for Stogursey and ensure we are a healthy and vibrant community.”

How we worked with local people in Stogursey

In early 2015 we carried out an in-depth consultation with local people.  By recruiting  and training a team of community researchers we were able to door-knock every household in the parish.  Stogursey community researchersWe asked people which community facilities they used, what they used the Victory Hall for, what new facilities they would like and whether they wanted to get involved.
Together with visits to local groups we were able to get 315 responses, representing 23% of the parish population.

The responses informed the proposed designs, along with one-to -one meetings and workshops with local stakeholders, including the operators of other community facilities in the village.

Stogursey consultation cartoonIn the summer we consulted again, this time on the proposed designs.  We delivered a leaflet to every household in the parish, put the proposals on-line, produced a disply and held a number of meetings and drop-in events around the village.  Of the people who responded, over 90% gave their support to the proposals.

Next steps for Stogursey Victory Hall

The next step will be to apply for funding for the works, estimated at £2.5m.  2MD Regeneration and Vivid Regeneration will be retained to work on the fundraising and the process of securing planning permission.

More details including the scheme designs are at http://stogurseyvictoryhall.org.uk

Carriageworks gets planning permission

Just over four years ago residents and businesses based around the long derelict Carriageworks  in Stokes Croft, Bristol asked 2MD to help them prepare a Community Consultation on Stokes Croft, Dec 2011Vision for the site. Over 1400 people got involved and by early 2012 the Vision had been published to much aclaim and adopted by the Council.

We were then asked to support the community (by then working as the Carriageworks Action Group) to engage in the Council’s compulsory purchase process and help find a developer for the site. That was all going to plan until early 2014 when a company called Fifth Capital London emerged saying they had an option to buy the site.

communityworksIn an atmosphere of strong distrust we were, for a long time, fighting each other. CAG and other local groups organised over 1400 objections to their planning application which we dissected from every possible angle. So when it went to the Planning Committee in April 2015 the developer was in for a rough ride.  As one Councillor described the scheme: “Only its mother could love it”! At the end of the meeting the developer was told to go off, improve the proposals and, importantly, to work with CAG.

Since then there has been a bizarre turn around.  Marc Pennick, the owner of Fifth Captial, has developed a genuinely positive working relationship with CAG, we’ve enabled him to speak to way more people than he had previously, we have been suggesting and nudging him to make changes that will gain favour locally, he has listened and he has made significant changes to his scheme. We haven’t got everything (affordable and social housing is still less than we’d like) but it is so much better.

Godwin_yard_entranceBy the time the scheme went to the Planning Committee last night CAG was in support and people were praising the process and our work: “It seems like there is a will on all sides to engage in conversation for the benefit of the area, which is rare”, “CAG has done amazing exemplary work to bring the Community Vision to fruition. It really has been amazing  work – the kind of stuff we should be looking at for all major developments in Bristol”, “Normally the developer comes back with only notional change. That’s not happened here. My gasp was well and truly flabbered.” On the radio this morning Marc Pennick said “we’re going to work with CAG and the local community, we’re going to keep working on these plans and we’re going to keep making them better.”

So it looks like a site that has blotted the landscape of Bristol for over 25 years is finally to be redeveloped. It’s great that positive community engagement by the developer is being credited with massive improvements to the scheme, as acknowledged by everyone involved.  And it’s great for 2MD to have been at the centre of that achievement. We’re now looking forward to working on the detail and securing all the benefits for the local area.  And after that…?!

Carriageworks: Vision to Reality

photo of Carriageworks and Westmoreland House

A developer has finally been found for the Carriageworks!

The Carriageworks and Westmoreland House in Bristol have been derelict for 27 years.  Owned by a London property company they were a blot on the landscape for many years, although more recently they have become a gallery for the many street artists working in the Stokes Croft area.

Photo of Rickshaw from Pedal Walla

In 2011 the Carriageworks Action Group was formed to try to bring the site and building back into active use.  2MD was selected to work with the local community to design and run a major consultation event that featured a branded rickshaw, voxpop and mass participation on the street, and attracted 1600 respondents.  Emerging from that consultation was the Community Vision that has been widely praised for its process and its, well, vision.

Photo of second phase of consultation on Stokes Croft

Of course, a vision alone is merely a dream so we then had to move to the next stage of turning it into action.  Since 2012 we’ve been working with CAG and Bristol City Council to go through the process of finding a developer for the site who will provide a scheme that may, if needs be, support the compulsory purchase of the site.  This has been a rather tortuous process governed by procurement law and the requirements of ‘competitive dialogue’.  Nevertheless, with everyone working together towards a common aim, we have managed to bring activism and regulations together and last night the developer going through to work up the scheme was selected.

Knightstone Housing Association is based in the area, has a track record of tackling complex inner city sites, and is committed to working with the local community to bring forward a successful development.

We’ll now be working with CAG, the City Council and Knightstone to design the next stage of consultation that will be taking place over the summer, engaging the community in the site designs and taking the Vision that much closer to final implementation.

Mike Day, Director of Development and Homeownership at Knightstone said; “We’re really pleased to have been invited to submit a final tender for this project. We’re committed to working with the local community to ensure that we can deliver a development that meets their needs. This is an exciting opportunity, which could allow us to build on the excellent work we’ve been doing with the City Council on regeneration projects in Bristol”

Lori Streich, Chair of the Carriageworks Action Group, said: “We’re very proud of this example of real community engagement. People in the community have the expertise, enthusiasm andinnovation that is needed to make a relevant contribution to a scheme.We are faced with a creatively demanding challenge around what shouldcertainly be one of Bristol’s most iconic settings.”

Neighbourhood Planning Community Champions are Top Tip

Lynton and Lynmouth’s Neighbourhood Plan’s Community Champions have been highlighted as a top tip in a Government report.

Back in 2011/12 Lynton Town Council asked Julian and colleague James Shorten to come up with a process for developing their Neighbourhood Plan – one of the initial tranche of frontrunners.

Photo of Lynton and Lynmouth Neighbourhood Planning Community Champions

Underpinning our proposals was the principle of community engagement and making sure that the process was led by the community, not the planners.  One of the actions we proposed was to form a team of Neighbourhood Reps (later renamed Community Champions) to be the face of the process and to take the ideas into the community.  The Champions wouldn’t be councillors or people with official positions, instead they’d just be ordinary people with an interest in what the Plan could achieve.  In the end we recruited about 15 people, mostly by word of mouth.  We met with them, ran briefing sessions for them and over time crafted a team of people who became very influential in the overall shape of the plan.  And the great news is, they’ve now been given recognition by the Government.

The first piece of Government funded research into Neighbourhood Planning  “Neighbourhood Planning The rural frontrunners: research and case studies (April 2013)” has just been published and seeks to show what can be achieved, and what approaches could work or be considered elsewhere.  The research reports that most Neighbourhood Plan areas use “traditional methods such as exhibitions, leafleting, meetings, questionnaires, road shows, social media and websites”, but highlights the Lynton and Lynmouth Community Champions as a top tip for ‘spreading the word and encouraging involvement’.

You can find the report on the DEFRA website.  And more about the Lynton and Lynmouth plan at lynplan.org.uk

What Community Radio means to me

After nine years involvement in Community Radio last night at our AGM I stood down as Chair and Director of 10Radio, the community radio station in Wiveliscombe, Somerset that I and a few others dreamed up in 2004.  As a parting shot, I was asked to reflect upon my years in community radio.  In planning what to say I struggled to summarise the amazing programmes we’d broadcast, but then realised that, actually, what community radio meant to me was not about radio, but it was about community.

10Radio has been broadcasting full-time since January 2008, but before that we broadcast two pilots of a month each in 2005 and 2006.  It was those broadcasts, and in particular the first one, that I really remember for the huge and amazing impact we had on this small rural town.

The idea for a radio station had come from an article written about a community station in Withenshaw, Manchester.  At the time I felt inspired by what they had achieved and the incredible medium radio provided for getting people involved and sharing local information.  But it felt like a big city project, and not something that would work in a small isolated community.  For a while the idea lay dormant until I mentioned it a local teacher, Ben Elkins, who immediately saw the potential for his pupils and simply said “lets do it”.  He persuaded his Head to put in some funding and from there we grew the idea, slowly discovering the world of broadcast licences, royalties, transmitters and scheduling.  We launched the concept on an unsuspecting community in early 2005 amidst rumours that there was some big company behind the idea (clearly there wasn’t) and the concerned question “who’s in charge?”.  Our answer to that was “you are”, but it wasn’t the answer expected so it was only gradually that people opened their eyes to the full potential.

Over the coming months we managed to find ex BBC staff who ran training courses, got someone to provide all the equipment, negotiated with the Co-op to rent us an empty shop and gradually set everything up.  The month before our first broadcast was gruelling, coinciding with summer holidays when everyone was away.  But three days before the start we had the keys to the shop and in a barn-raising effort of community volunteers and trades, we built a studio from nothing, finishing off with egg trays from a local farm to provide sound damping in the studio.

We started broadcasting one Sunday morning. Standing outside with a little transistor radio, the magic of the whole enterprise came to life, as we heard our own sounds coming over the airwaves.  And although the music was none of our doing, to hear the first track burst through was a thrill I still remember.  With hastily written posters stuck up in the window we appealed for presenters, for carpets, even for old video cassettes to keep an archive of our broadcast.  And it all came flooding in.  People were amazed at what was happening, and that they could walk in and book a slot to do a show, with training on the job.  It was the talk of the town.  The school rehearsed their show on air.  We found our hearthrob DJ who just walked in one day, sat down and did 6 hours non-stop, wooing the teenage girls with his sultry tones.  Sports shows, chat shows, late night jazz, live musicians, local news, we had it all.

But it was the way we changed lives that was our great achievement.  One person later wrote: “As someone who has been out of full-time work for some years as a result of health problems, 10radio made me realise how much confidence I had lost in moving out of my comfort zones.  I knew that I had no desire to do presenting, but I was shocked to find how anxious I was about even working on reception, and initially I deliberately chose predictably quiet times.  By the end of the 4 weeks I was keen to seek out the busy times, and after being involved in one of the programmes, was even beginning to develop a taste for trying my hand at presenting!”.  Another wrote “(Our son) suffers from mild ADHD which manifests largely through his inability to concentrate or focus on tasks, particularly if they do not engage him.  You can imagine how this affects him at school…  However, 10Radio has been one activity that has fully engaged him, proving that he has the talent and application to do something well when he so wishes.  (When we broadcast our show) he not only took a full part in actually hosting the programme, he also manned the phones and took messages.  His self esteem was immeasurably boosted by the positive responses he received from friends and acquaintances who heard him”.

This was, and continues to be, our great achievement.  We opened up opportunities, we introduced the wizadry of fading out the mic, and fading in the music, we helped people find the joy of hearing their first broadcast sounds on the radio. School children who came on 10Radio in 2005 are now in their mid 20s and some have gone on to do amazing things, hopefully with a little influence from 10Radio. We brought something unique to this community.  We made a difference to lives.  That’s what community radio is about, and that’s what I look back upon with pride and great sense of achievement.

More funding for neighbourhood plans

The government has announced £17m of additional funding over the next two years for neighbourhood planning.

From 2 January 2013 local planning authorities are able to claim up to a maximum of £50,000 (up from £20,000) for up to 10 area designations (applies to 2012/13).

From 1 April 2013 local planning authorities will be able to claim for up to 20 designations (£100,000) in the financial year 2013 to 2014.

In total, local planning authorities can claim up to £30,000 for each neighbourhood plan.  (This is £10,000 more than was received by the first front runners announced in May 2011). The first payment of £5,000 will be made following designation of a neighbourhood area recognising the officer time supporting and advising the community in taking forward a neighbourhood plan. The second payment of £5,000 will be made when the local planning authority publicises the neighbourhood plan prior to examination. The third payment of £20,000 will be made on successful completion of the neighbourhood planning examination.

This money recognises the duties that local authorities have in relation to neighbourhood planning. These are to: provide advice and assistance; to hold an examination; and to make arrangements for a referendum.

Woolavington and Puriton get Big Local Million

The lucky people of Woolavington and Puriton have today heard that they are to receive over £1m from Big Local Trust. Along with 49 other communities in England they will receive the Big Lottery funding of over the next 10 years.  Each community is given a ‘Big Local Rep‘ to work with, and the lucky people of Woolavington and Puriton (near Bridgwater) have me!

Big Local is about bringing together all the local talent, ambitions, skills and energy from individuals, groups and organisations who want to make their area an even better place to live. Residents will identify the issues in their areas that they want to address and work together to put a plan together for how they will do this.

The four programme outcomes for Big Local are:

  1. Communities will be better able to identify local needs and take action in response to them.
  2. People will have increased skills and confidence, so that they continue to identify and respond to needs in the future.
  3. The community will make a difference to the needs it prioritises.
  4. People will feel that their area is an even better place to live.

I’ll be heading over to Woolavington and Puriton later today to start talking.  If you’re from Woolavington or Puriton and want to know more, do get in touch.

Big Local Lottery

Pleased to say that I’ve been appointed as a Big Local Rep.  Big Local is a Lottery funded programme to invest £1m over 10 years in 150 communities in England.  The programme is very much about communities making decisions for themselves about how to spend the money, and the role of the Rep is to support, facilitate and oversee the process.  There are 70 Reps across the country, with other local appointments including Dominic Murphy (of Creating Excellence) and Sophie Cowdell (of Common Places).

Some Big Local areas are already up and running, and I’ve been asked to pick up support for Radstock and Westfield.  Also going to be working on one of the “Wave 3” communities, but sworn to secrecy on which one until after the official announcement on 10 December.