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With issues of healthy eating and food poverty continuing to make headlines across the country one community has put itself firmly in the driving seat. Inverclyde Community Trust is working with local partners to provide a diverse number of food related projects, all of which help deliver against a number of Scotland’s public health priorities. Allan Johnstone, Chief Executive of the Trust, has more information…

“Supporting community-based activities to flourish and connecting them with each other is a key aspect to community development in public health. Over the last couple of years the Trust has supported and developed a series of small community-based activities, each with a different focus - growing, cooking and sharing food – that allows people to dip in and out of the different activities they are interested in. Each of these were sparked by the interests of different groups of people. Some wanted to grow food as a way of reducing food miles, others wanted to learn how to cook healthy meals, and others wanted to reduce social isolation by creating the opportunity to connect with others over a shared meal. The projects are all small, local and include a mix of paid staff and volunteers.

The Trust has been able to use its own resources – a training kitchen that was under used, a community garden space for growing, and the willingness of our volunteers – for these activities. We also sought the support of others, including our Health & Social Care Partnership, other community organisations, CVS Inverclyde and received some funds from the Robertson Trust and the Scottish Community Alliance. Together this mixture of practicality, enthusiasm and a small dash of resources has led to these activities becoming established and finding their place within our community. It’s also helped other local community organisations to start similar activities to make sure that as much of Inverclyde as possible has access to community growing spaces, or to shared eating opportunities.

Across these community-based activities we’ve been able to encourage the physical and mental wellbeing benefits of growing food and the social benefits of sharing food with each other at a shared meal. The cooking classes have focused on developing skills and knowledge for cooking healthy meals and now we’re looking to provide cooking classes for those without the necessary life skills or with specific dietary needs such as meals for people managing their diabetes.

We have also expanded our work to start to build the community food infrastructure locally. We linked up with a couple of local supermarkets so we can take food that has reached its sale date and use it to make some meals that are then shared. This helps to reduce food waste and provide a free meal at the same time. We sourced funding for a network of community freezers where we place cooked meals and donated food in freezers located at six different community organisations across the area, including community centres, family centre, a local children’s nursery and other community garden spaces, so that people across the local community can help themselves to a free meal.

We’re in the process of building up this work by creating more activities and opportunities and connecting them with each other so we can provide a range of activities that improve health and reduce food insecurity. In expanding this we’re able to provide opportunities for people to volunteer if they want to, to connect with each other, to access locally grown food at affordable prices, and to have access to free food in a dignified way.

Taking a community development approach that involves people in ways that works for them grows the community assets and creates a local infrastructure of people, projects and organisations. We hope to continue to grow our own and contribute to tackling some of the public health priorities for the future.”

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