Food is central to life, without good nutrition we fail to thrive, for many reasons the UK is in crisis around food. Seems a silly thing to say, after all we are a rich western nation, but with depleted soils, overuse of industrial chemical fertilisers, the drive for ever increasing profits around food, ready meals, palm oil and other fillers, laziness on our part, climate in crisis, and that’s before we get to poverty, and the wastage of food that seems to be part of everyday life.
At New Forest Aquaponics CIC everything we do connects to food in some way or other, after all we grow food! Even though at the time of writing we are looking for our permanent home, that is not stopping us progressing with our work. Let me tell you about The Waterside Food Project.
This part of our work will cover
Food waste, collecting surplus and unsold food from supermarkets.
Food poverty, getting the food we collect handed out to those in need.
Growing Food, encouraging others to have a go at growing some of their food.
Cooking, inspiring more cooking and less takeaways.
Knowledge, empowering people to understand where and how their food gets to them.
Compost, we compost anything that cannot be used by people or animals to ensure no waste at all. And of course that takes us back to growing food!
It was by chance that four families have found themselves working together on the first of these issues, the food waste. Starting with just one day a week, and one supermarket, to 7 days a week and 6 supermarkets collected from at different intervals.
As a working group we have 3 different groups at our core, New Forest Aquaponics CIC is just one small part of the surplus food group. One is a charity and has service users, who benefit from the flowers and snacks. The other group does an amazing job by handing out food at pop ups reaching 40 to 50 plus people a week. Between us we work out the best route for the food to have maximum positive impact.
We also share with groups who cook for others, two who cook for the homeless, one cooking meals for families during school holidays, providing ingredients to make cakes for fundraising, and food bags for emergency needs. It really does show when we work together truly great things can happen, and we can strengthen communities.
Community fridges take on many forms, we are trying to get a community fridge local to us. While we are working on finding a suitable place to house a fridge and freezer that people will be able to access, we have a food box outside our house. In it is always bread, and then tins and packets from the surplus food collections, and if possible fresh produce. Sometimes we get huge amounts of one type of food, sharing out over many routes makes sure it will get used.
Slowly people are beginning to put foods they will not use into the box, we have many neighbours who use the local food library – paying a minimal amount for a huge bag of foods, but with no choice as to what is in the bag – they often get far more of one thing than they would ever use themselves, or foods they don’t know how to use, or like. Instead of those foods sitting in the cupboard they can share with others, and take foods they will use and eat.
A friend was inspired to set up a box in Totton, and another is being planned for Hythe. We hope we can get a network of them going across the area.
The food boxes can also be a way for seed, seedling, and plant sharing and a few have already asked if they will be able to bring home grown produce to the box.
The answer is always a huge big YES, and if there is lots we can help get fresh foods to others who might not always be able to have access to it. Of course this will only work with community engagement, I am looking forward to seeing how this develops 🙂
The composting part of the project is developing well, we have 7 pallet sized compost bins for any vegetables and fruits that cannot be used by people or animals, and cooked and processed foods are being composted using bokashi composting methods Over a two week period at Christmas we bokashi over 100kgs of processed foods, that was around 10% of all of the food we collected and handed out during Christmas. Things we were able to get out to help people included 120 fresh turkeys, 400kg of carrots, and the same of potatoes and brussel sprouts!
If you’re wondering why the shops thought the vegetables were no good? Christmas branded plastic bags…………and what happens when we don’t collect? It all goes in the bin.
Composting is a perfect community action, one we can all take part in. This year we will be running courses on how to compost in your own home, using the best method to suit your situation, and also help others get community composting sites up and running in the waterside.
The cooking side of the project will take a little time, but if you know of anyone with appropriate skills who would be interested in helping move this side forward please put them in touch with us.
We are just one little part of the cog in a whole system surrounding food. Huge numbers of people across the UK are doing their bit to make the system a little bit better There needs to be a gear change on how we as a society think about, grow, and consume food. I hope our work can go a little way to shifting towards a more regenerative system that is fairer to people and our biosphere.
Can you be part of that shift too?