Food Redistribution at the Weald Allotments: no questions, no hassles, no waste

Wondering what you can do to help others in these times?  Local gardeners have been quietly providing community fridges with excess crops since before the lockdown.  Read on for Kay Sexton’s report on the success of the community fridge at the Weald Allotment site in Hove.

It may have been a mistake to decide to launch the Weald Community Fridge on April 1st, luckily, we were able to move quickly through the lockdown. We decided that we would continue collecting food and hope that enough volunteer drivers would come forward to allow us to make doorstep deliveries.

To date, the Weald Community Fridge has distributed more than 400 kilos of food: a combination of supermarket surplus and fresh, largely organic produce from our allotment-holders. A team of volunteers (some allotment-holders but others not) collect supermarket food and then to deliver it with our fresh crops twice a week.  And that doesn’t include the allotment-holders who quietly produce, harvest and drop off wonderful fruit and vegetables every Saturday, which we refrigerate and then bag up and deliver.

We don’t ask why people want food, because our fridge motto is, “Anybody can put food in, anybody can take food out, no question, no hassles, no waste”.  We also believe that, right now, our activities are about much more than just food. People need to know that they aren’t being forgotten, and they need to know that they aren’t a nuisance, which is why we tailor our bags to people’s individual dietary needs, unlike many other services, which send the same food to everybody regardless of their cultural or dietary preferences.  We’re also unusual in the quality of the food we provide – fresh organic produce is not showing up in many other packages delivered to those in need! This, above all, is what people value – and they tell us so:

“Just wanted to say thank you so much for food deliveries. I have a lung problem at the moment. The fresh veg is a God-send. The kindness of people makes such a difference in this weird time.”

“I made rhubarb crumble with my son, it kept him busy and eating it made us both happy.”

“Thank you for my gluten-free goodies. It’s so lovely that you manage to find things I can eat.”

Above all we are an allotment site, which is why our latest initiative is to provide allotments to anybody who wants one! Our mini-allotments are designed to give everybody the pleasure of growing their own fresh, organic, produce. We plant them in supermarket punnets, so we’re re-using plastic that’s already in the system, and we ensure they contain fresh cut-and-come-again salad, perennial herbs and a strawberry plant. They are delivered along with our food bags, with their own set of cultivation notes, and people can continue to grow them as they are or plant them into pots or outdoors to experience the pleasure of cultivating their own crops. When the punnet is empty or the supply exhausted, people can return the punnet to have it refilled with more plants, because growing food is much more than just a food security issue – it contributes to people’s health, wellbeing and overall happiness and we want to share that with as many people as possible, particularly in these difficult times.

With thanks to Kay Sexton and to Beba and her family for the images.  To find out more about this amazing initiative, go to the Weald blog page.  And for more information on how excess and unwanted food can help others, check out how to ‘Grow A Row’ for the Real Junk Food project, and look at other BHOGG articles relating to food waste/ excess: Growing, Gluts and Generosity, A personal quest: Can organic farming grow enough to feed the people?

BHOGG regulars of our Organic Gardening Course will know that the Phoenix Community Centre also hosts a community fridge and excess produce from the organic plot there goes in every month.

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