Soup Dragons

Soup Dragons, sounds interesting – tell me more!

That was my reaction when I heard one of our local parish councils would be starting to run these local community events.  Sounded right up my street and it was!

The very first event was planned for 24th Feb 2022 and I was lucky enough to be chosen to pitch on behalf of The Waterside Food Project. 

This is what we do – https://thewatercressqueen.wordpress.com/2022/02/28/the-waterside-food-project/

The idea is that everyone buys a ticket, gets to listen to 4 pitches and then eat soup. The pitches can be a start up local business, or a community group. Whilst soup is being eaten everyone talks about the pitches and then the votes are cast. £5 from each ticket sale goes towards the prize money and the winning pitch gets the money to help them move forward with their ideas or work. 

As it was the first event we only had 3 of us pitch. Christine Bennett who runs the Healthy Haven garden at the Waterside medical practice. They are creating a beautiful place for people to come and meet outside in the garden. As with any new project they have a long list of things they need help with, if you are able to help them at all contact Christine through the facebook group, they would love to hear from you!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2698592857082670

The room then heard from Ivor, a local resident who writes funny books and paints pictures to sell.  He was hoping to be able to put the prize money into sorting out his garden which has gotten out of hand and is full of brambles. 

And then it was my turn, I am used to public speaking, but this felt really important as I was not doing one of my normal talks, but pitching for the benefit of our community.  

Here is my pitch 

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Hi I am Lucie Mann, known online as The Watercress Queen. 

I run along with my family, New Forest Aquaponics CIC  – a regenerative culture hub challenging the way we impact our biosphere.

I can waffle on about many of our projects for hours, but I only have 4 minutes, and I want to talk about one of the most important parts of our work. 

I was told this presentation should be fun, well I am sorry I don’t think I can find anything funny about food poverty and food waste in the UK.

The Waterside Food project aims to tackle both of these in the local area.  Many people who live on the waterside do not see how much food poverty and inequality we have in the area. Just because it is not seen does not mean it is not there. 

And things are going to get worse. covid , rising cost of living, cost of fuel have all impacted on people’s pockets. Many have to choose between heating and eating. 

The heating is not quite so easy to sort out, but the food we can help with!

What are we doing so far?

At the beginning of 2021 fate brought a small group of local people together, through surplus food collections, and it became an obvious thing to work together to help as many people as possible.   In our core group we have 3 different groups working together, with the waterside food project being one of them.  

One helps a charity and their service users by using unsold flowers to provide learning opportunities and unsold drinks and snacks to raise funds.

The other group works tirelessly and with a dedication second to none  to provide pop up food distribution  across the waterside, connecting with people on a very personal level. Picking up where people may need  financial help, or someone to talk to at a time of need. 

Between us all we identify the best use of the foods, so groups who cook for the homeless, or  other groups who provide food are always offered things they can turn into meals. 

The waterside food project  are at the beginning of setting up community fridges. 

A community fridge is a free and accessible place where the community can access food.  The first one is outside my house, it is a simple box on legs with tins and bread for people to help themselves.  Within a week a friend had set one up in totton, and the really amazing thing is, people are now checking the boxes to see what is there, but also adding food to it to share the food around.  We would like to get more of these up and down the waterside. 

On a slightly larger scale, the next stage will be to get an actual fridge and a freezer in at least one location on the waterside. This will allow foods that need to be chilled or frozen  to be available to prevent waste. At the moment these types of foods are the only ones that we can’t always get out to people. And although we compost them, we really want people fed. 

Food we cannot hand out or simply have far more than we can hand out is  used to feed animals – did you know cows like bread? 

And if it is not suitable for animals then we compost it. over the two weeks of Christmas I composted 100kgs of processed food waste, about 10% of the food collected. This spring the compost  will be used to grow food for the community. 

Where does all this food come from?  All supermarkets have unsold foods, and at the end of the day as a team we take it in turns to go and collect from many of the supermarkets between here and southampton.  If you know of a store that would like to offer us food do get in touch!

Now you may be wondering if we win tonight, what would we spend the money on? 

Well between us we cover a minimum of 168 miles a week , which is around £75 per week providing this service to the local community. 

  Being able to provide fuel cards will make sure we can keep going in these times of rising fuel costs

Next on the list would be Improving and creating more community fridge boxes in the area. 

Our future plans we would like to have access to a kitchen where we can cook and process excess produce – thinking of the 400kgs of carrots and the same of potatoes and brussel sprouts at christmas……….and let’s not mention the 120 fresh turkeys ( thankfully all turkeys were eaten!)  

And how wonderful if we could find a place to teach cooking, to complement teaching growing food, and community composting. 

The very big picture for New Forest Aquaponics is to create a community owned farm which would be able to house all of these elements, you will see information on the tables about this, but until then can you help us? 

I hope you enjoy your evening, I might just have to recommend the watercress soup !

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I am really pleased to say we won! The pot came out at  £185 which will be used to support the fuel costs. We will do this by purchasing fuel cards to share with the group we work with. 

With the rising costs at the fuel pumps this won’t last long so if you would like to help us we would be very grateful.  

And to make sure that the soup dragons effect goes further than just one night, Christine and some of the volunteers are coming to visit New Forest Aquaponics CIC to see our work. We both felt it would be great to see how we can support each other on an ongoing basis. 

Having met Ivor previously I had already seen his garden, and it really does need a sort out. So we are going to put together a team to do a garden makeover Ground Force style for him.  Ivor is very excited about this. If you would like to join us we will be fixing a date and sharing as an event on Facebook very soon. 

A huge thank you to Helen Hythe and Hythe and Dibden parish council for putting on the event, just what the community needs!

The next soup dragon event is 26th March, it will be wonderful to see who pitches next, I hope to see you there!