During the last three years we have been working collaboratively with local housing charity Bolton at Home to address food poverty, we have helped to fight food poverty in the most direct and practical way possible, by helping people to grow some of their own food at home in either their gardens, yards or on their windowsills.
It makes sense!
There are multiple reasons why we took this approach, namely that people on low or no income are less likely to have access to cleanly grown fresh food, we also believe that if we can get people into growing some of their own food that they learn new skills, they get outside in the fresh air, save money and eat really well for next to nothing, and as the case has been with some of our growers in the past they have continued feeding their families and growing has now become a norm for some households.
What we are up against
We have seen a lot of things whilst doing this work and listened to a lot of concerns within the community, there is grinding poverty experienced by many including people who are working, a lack of basic knowledge of what constitutes healthy food and how to prepare it, some people who have no cooking equipment, and there are people who have to regularly make the choice between either heating their selves or eating. Some families now are almost completely reliant on cheap aways, as one young Mum once explained to me ‘If you aint got money to top your gas up to cook your tea you can buy a large kebab and two lots of chips for a fiver, this is enough to feed me and my three kids’
Light at the end of the Tunnel
But don’t get me wrong, its not all been grim, far from it, We have also seen a lot of good happening during this time, we have seen people with serious illnesses getting out in the garden and growing food with their kids, we have seen our growers sharing out their produce as was the case with one man Chris Gregory who lives in Breightmet who divided out portions of food he had grown and gave it out to people who had been the victims of benefit sanctions, and we have seen kids picking and eating carrots and peas as they leave the house to walk to School. On the community plots where we have worked we have listened to stories of how getting out and working with the soil has helped people with mental ill health. We also saw Congolese refugee women who were knew to Bolton engaging in food growing and the sharing of native food dishes with us.
And it is these successes and connections that are the motivating force for us to continue with this work and to try and take it to another level against a background of continued ideological austerity and scarcity, ours is a simple one ‘If you aint got food, grow some!
Ramping up production and developing communities
We decided at the end of the growing season of 2016 that we really needed to find a way of ramping the whole food growing thing up and try to get as many people growing their own as possible. We decided that we were going to try crowdfunding as a means of potentially funding this work and so we got together with managers and community workers at Bolton at Home and put together our crowdfunding page on Spacehive.
So whats the Plan for 2017?
The idea is to raise enough funds to buy food growing kits for a hundred families, and to provide resources and support for two food growing Hubs in Breightmet and Farnworth, both are areas of high social and economic exclusion. If our crowfunder is successful we will support the hundred growing families right through the growing season, whilst running gardening and cooking sessions at the Hub sites as a means of supporting both the growers we are working with and people who live on the local estates who might also want to grow some of their own food. We are not asking for a great deal of money to work with these families and offer them support, we only need twenty thousand pounds to make this happen, so please give if you are able to, if you are struggling for cash please share this blog post as any help is very much appreciated.