A Riot on my Doorstep…..

Or was it more of a kerfuffle ?

Or was it an insight to the state of the UK right now. 

I live in the New Forest, not a rich part, but a safe place, with little trouble.  There is an assumption that there is little poverty in this part of the world, and compared to many places there isn’t. But that is changing, and fast. 

Through my non-profit I run  – New Forest Aquaponics CIC – we work alongside a charity and a community group to help to save food waste from supermarkets.  All of us aim to help those who need some extra food to help them through the week (first and foremost), and then to make sure none of the food gets wasted.  

I have a big blue box on my drive. It is an old freezer box that was taken out of a cruise liner at some point.  It works like a giant cool box and works really well as a place for local people to come and help themselves. A little bit like a community fridge, but on my drive. 

What we have found is that over time more and more people are joining the WhatsApp group we use to notify everyone when foods are added to the box. This is great, but is very sad as so many of the people who join it are doing so not to save food waste from the bin, but because they really need some help to make it through to the next payday. 

Last week we had a fairly new volunteer go and pick up the food; she then brought it to our box and in an attempt to give us a night off, didn’t let us know the box was now full.  All of this is my fault for not making sure she knew to let us know the box was full. 

It had some really lovely foods that day, mince and beef burgers, as well as the normal breads and pastries, plus a few vegetables and fruit.  Pictures were taken and shared on WhatsApp, as well as with another food group not too far away. 

We get very very little meat in the collections: it is always regarded as a real treat. I normally freeze any meat, so it can go to those who really need it, either by me (as I see people at the box), or via one of the other groups we work with running  pop up’s, or given out in  a food parcel. 

But because the meat had been put in the box and around 250 people saw the pictures, it became a bit of a race to the box!  And of course it got a little heated, voices raised and accusations of greed flew about.  Not what you would expect on a quiet New Forest road. It took less than 30 minutes for the whole box to empty, disappointing many people. 

All this week I have been answering questions on what happened, and listening to regular users of the box.  

I would like to give my take on why this all happened.   

I do not believe that we are naturally greedy, but I do believe we always are looking for some form of security. Food security is important for us all, and we have a drive to make sure those we love are fed.  For so many the current financial crisis in the UK is hitting really hard. With fuel, electricity and food prices rising, and wages staying the same, fear of how to manage is  taking hold.  Let’s face it, if your budget stays the same, how do you pay all the bills now they have gone up?

About 5 years ago my family hit a point of no money, and to be honest, nothing has improved much financially since then.  But what has changed is our ability to cope with no money, and to learn that however hard it is, we do live in a rich nation, and even with a system that is totally broken, it is 100% better than most countries around the world.  

Through my work in plastic transition, I regularly talk to people from all over the world, including Uganda. They tell me tales of fights over food, and locals who have starved to death. Fighting over food should never, ever happen here in the UK. 

When we are in a state of fear, caused by not knowing how we are going to provide for our loved ones, it can bring out what looks like greed. It is almost impossible to put others first when your mind is plagued with worry over how to cope. I do not blame anyone for trying their best to provide for their family, I have been in that situation, and at times still find myself there. 

Thinking of others has been lost in the stress of modern life; strong communities are too rare these days. But I do believe we can turn this around, by remembering to think of others, and help create an abundance of community. 

My little part in this is The Waterside Food Project, and helping make sure everyone can access at least something to help them get through each day.  What is your part in creating community abundance?

And to the people who use my box – no one needs to be hungry – we will keep doing what we are doing for as long as we can. Please always think of others and only take what you will use, and never fear asking for help if you are in real need.  

I love you all and the joy it brings me to hear your stories of how you are helping others who can’t get to the box. Every time you do this you are creating community abundance.

A full box – it is not this full very often.

The Waterside Food Project

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! 

One of the two cars of turkeys at Christmas. it took 3 car loads to deal with the veg. Everything got eaten, many people who got a turkey had not been able to afford to buy one this Christmas.

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?

Compost

Composting – nature’s way of keeping the planet healthy. 

Just imagine if nothing ever broke down? We would be in a real mess…….

Our biosphere works in such amazing ways with processes to keep itself and us healthy and clean.  It does this by breaking down all natural materials, and reusing them in an endless cycle. 

When us humans get involved it becomes composting – and although it is super simple, if it is organic it will break down to feed the earth – we like to make it complicated!

Composting gets forgotten as something we should do ourselves. We chop down the growth in our gardens, pay for it to be taken away, and then spend more money buying compost wrapped in plastic…….

Although it is very simple to create your own composting, because of the way we live, we need to look at all the different techniques, so we use the best for our homes or communities. And composting can help rebuild our soils and space for other species to live, however small. 

As part of our regenerative work we will be running community composting, teaching how to compost, how to use different methods depending on the situation, combining methods, and using the compost to grow good food (we use decoupled aquaponics as well) and build soil health. 

To do that we need somewhere to act as a demonstration model of the hows.  

And that is what this series of posts are about.  

Sharing our working ethos, so you can understand the why, to inspire you to be part of that journey. 

This pictures is page that explains our working ethos around compost  – you can read the rest on our website ( the open source development of the website is part of bringing community to work together ) www.newforestaquaponics.com 

We also have a survey which we would love to get your opinions on how much support we will have for a democratic share offer to be part of our regenerative farm community. 

We also have a survey which we would love to get your opinions on how much support we will have for a democratic share offer to be part of our regenerative farm community. 

Please do fill in the survey – it is really important we can show we have the support to get to the next stage. follow the link or use the QR code

https://forms.gle/otCaze6JDjL3LzmG6

Why?

New Forest Aquaponics cic want to build a community owned farm.

Why?

My wake up call. 

I have always been aware of the damage we are doing to our biosphere, and ourselves, what I hadn’t quite been aware of was what was happening to our communities.

Whilst I had been busy working, and bringing up my boys, with my head in my own bubble of interests something had happened………..

I didn’t realize what that was till I had my stroke, when not one single person knocked on our door…….

We had lived on our road for 21 years at the time, and it was quite obvious that something serious had happened in our family, but yet no one even asked if we were okay. 

As I recovered and started talking about this to people, I  found that although people have lots of friends, most of those now are connected via social media or clubs and very few met with people who lived locally to them.

Now I know that that’s not true about everyone, some are lucky to have really good local connections, but others have even less and don’t even have the supporting groups on social media as back up. 

The intention is to create a place where people can come and find connection. And yes for many that will still be online, but we are setting up our own communication channels that will feel more inclusive,  the aim  to connect online with in person.

By looking at the bigger circle of how all of this connects together – food, community, lifeskills, and all of the ways these inteconnet and bring them all together we can start the work of real forward change to a community that puts back more than it takes out. That heals and nurtures, both us and our home, the biosphere. 

To do that we need somewhere to act as a demonstration model of the hows.  

And that is what this series of posts are about.  

Sharing our working ethos, so you can understand the why, to inspire you to be part of that journey. 

This picture is the third page of our working ethos   – you can read the rest on our website ( the open source development of the website is part of bringing community to work together ) www.newforestaquaponics.com 

We also have a survey which we would love to get your opinions on how much support we will have for a democratic  (one member one vote) share offer to be part of our regenerative farm community. https://forms.gle/gHNjuYggDpJAnMTs5