As concerns grew around the rising cost of living, an initiative aimed at making healthy meals available in communities in Monmouthshire was launched, with financial support from the European Union funded Rural Development Programme and Welsh Government. A feature of this collaboration between community-led organisations in Abergavenny, Gilwern and Monmouth is sharing a commitment to tackling food waste and food insecurity in local homes.
During the lockdown in 2020, Abergavenny Community Centre was encouraged to apply for funding to work with other groups and organisations with the aim of improving access to nutritious meals and cooking skills.
Since refurbishing the former Park Street Infants School kitchen in 2016, the community centre’s kitchen team has been learning about the need for healthy and affordable meals in the population. Chef Elaine Blanchard explained “ We have discovered how important eating a meal with others is, especially to people who live alone. We know the impact that food insecurity has on households, and how ageing, health, access to produce, and confidence in preparing meals all play a role. We also realise that alone we only reach a fraction of people in need of better access to nutritious food and skills. Our hope is that by working with other people that our combined effort will be more effective in addressing the wide, sometimes hidden need that we know exists in our area.”
Abergavenny Foodbank, Gilwern Roots, Abergavenny Community Enterprise, Cwtch Angels, Abergavenny Community Centre and Monmouth Community Fridge were asked to identify how the project could help them to achieve their aims – whether in the form of a fridge/freezer, produce and ingredients, cooked meals, or help with Environmental Health compliance.
We invited everyone involved to write a few lines about their work and how the project is helping them.
Kate Hooton from the Abergavenny Foodbank, whose core purpose is to provide emergency food through referrals from support agencies, told us “We want to work with other groups that share similar aims, as coordinating our effort helps to minimise gaps. The Foodbank is taking small steps towards meeting its goal of providing more fresh food to our clients. We buy a little fresh fruit to add to our food parcels, and over the summer, receive a donation of ‘just picked’ vegetables and salad. The fridge/freezer which the project is funding will mean that we can keep fresh produce for a bit longer, and we can also hold some wholesome frozen meals made in the community centre’s kitchen, for some clients. The project is drawing interested people and efforts together and as a Foodbank we look forward to continuing the work together.”
Over the next few months the community centre will be holding a series of cookery lessons suitable for adults, and young people over 12 years of age aimed at keeping food skills and knowledge alive. For further information about the work please ring 07751666481 or visit the website www.abergavennycc.org about the cooking classes.
Marion Pearse, Centre Manager
Coming together to grow, prepare and share food is second nature to many, and because every person needs it, food-sharing plays a big role in the life of the Abergavenny Community Centre, where simple things in life still matter.
In a small way we are doing what we can to foster sustainable behaviour: the kitchen team cooks from scratch using produce that’s grown or raised nearby, and puts to good use any excess produce coming our way. Also, the community kitchen, itself, is creating new possibilities for more of us to benefit from the rich source of goodwill and skills present in fellow residents. The combination of existing skills and a need for basic skills has inspired a series of hands-on cooking activities next year, aimed at keeping skills and knowhow in action through the hands of ordinary people. Could your skills and passion for your craft, help bring our aspirations to life?
In the meantime while we get ready, if you shop in TESCO there is something that you can do to help our mission to get people cooking again. From October until the end of the year you’ll notice that the Abergavenny Community Centre is one of the three good causes which shoppers can choose to support through the blue tokens scheme. Why not pop a token in all three and you’ll be helping residents to build more resourceful and compassionate communities into the future. Thank you.
To find out more and to keep in touch via email, social media platforms, or visit www.localgiving.org and search for Abergavenny Community Trust. MORE to follow about our ‘Back to Basics’ cookery sessions in the FOCUS Magazine next month – or come back to the website ‘Things To Do’ page from time to time. Thanks.
Are you the experienced Company Secretary that Abergavenny Community Centre is seeking to support its Board of Trustees?
If you share our values and have excellent administrative skills, please contact us for an informal chat.
Marion Pearse – firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-Founder, Abergavenny Community Centre Registered Charity No. 1177133
In more typical times, Friday Coffee Mornings are characterised by a
rush of activity – the smell of coffee brewing; the taste of home-baked
goodies; and the sound of busy chatter. We miss that Friday feeling, a
Now, almost a year since the Pandemic broke into our daily lives,
we have taken the coffee morning on-line in an endeavour to keep the
spirit of Fridays alive until we can meet again together under one roof.
The activity is open to anyone who can access the internet, and Elaine is
here to answer queries about the weekly programme and take you
through the steps that will allow you to join in as we explore our town
and surrounds through the gifts, skills and interests of people living here.
You are very welcome to come, and please do not hesitate to get in
(The online coffee morning has been made possible with financial assistance
from the Integrated Care Fund, administered by Gwent Association
of Voluntary Organisations. The charity is grateful for the new challenges
and opportunities it brings.)
We hope you enjoy these articles and find they give some insight into the life of the old Infant’s School, since becoming a community centre in 2015.
It may not surprise you to learn that when the Centre opened there wasn’t a plan of action – just conversation, listening and watching as things fell into place. In just a few years, this approach, made together with other residents, has created a multi-purpose, multi-use place where people can participate and engage in ways that suit them. As it is, the Centre is a place where it’s possible for people to:- host their own activity, function or event; go to somebody else’s; or take part in something that the charity facilitates eg. lunch, coffee morning or lending a hand. While venues share similarities, where, perhaps, we do differ is that the community centre is run and managed by a Charity which is interested in everyday matters, and concerned that every person has what they need to thrive – basic needs – like enough food or shelter; feeling safe; being connected; and having meaningful things to do.
For some of us, the Centre has become our ‘third place’ which simply means that it’s not home or work.
Like all businesses the community centre operates within a business model, and in 2016 we started the two-year long process of becoming a registered charity regulated by the Charity Commission. The Abergavenny Community Trust [Reg. 1177133] adheres to clear operating principles – reporting, monitoring, scrutiny and financial regulation which are essential when managing a building and resources, held in trust, for the benefit of others. The Charity is overseen by a voluntary Board of Trustees, a Secretary to the Board and a Treasurer) who discharge their collective duties through the Objects (aims & purpose) of the Charity. There are three part-time, paid staff who cook, clean and manage the building together with a small army of people who undertake diverse roles and duties vital for the Centre to open and remain viable. These gifts of time and skills form the beating heart of the charity and make all the difference on the ground.
While still in lock-down, unable to meet people in ways that we are accustomed to, our focus has returned to the building and grounds and the task of managing their safe-keeping, until such time that our lives return to something more familiar. In the meantime we’re decorating again, so if you are in a position to help and don’t mind working alone, you are welcome. Thank you.
For this, and anything else please call 07751666481 or email@example.com [February 2021]
There is increasing interest in understanding the power of good that comes from spending time in the natural world, and here at the community centre the small improvements being made to the old school grounds, has exactly this in mind. The Keep Wales Tidy Local Places for Nature project has helped the charity deliver more of its charitable aims by enabling us to realise our long-held ambition, to create spaces which are mutually beneficial to people and to the planet. The wildflower meadow turf is bedding-in and the110 fruiting shrubs and fruit trees are in the earth, preparing to establish over the next few years. This flurry of activity also spurred our desire to do more to protect existing natural habitats, so we have created more ‘wild corners’ for creatures in need of Winter refuge, especially our local hedgehog population which is in steep decline. The centre relies heavily on goodwill to drive these initiatives, and we are grateful to our gardeners and grafters for investing their time, skills and energy in taking care of all of the small things which go on to make a big contribution to the well-being of people and nature. The recent tree planting [see pic of Romy] has drawn our attention back to a new generation of families and entrepreneurs following behind, guiding, and shaping their own future whilst giving us help when they can. Will you join them?
Local giving leaves a powerful legacy, and while the world remains in the grip of a pandemic there are still many ways to get behind the small businesses and charities you value, now for the future. The continued financial support of our community was important to us last year with standing orders, one-off donations, promise auction bids and our Christmas raffle ticket purchases making a big difference to our viability while we have been unable to trade. We are very grateful to many, who, over the years have found innovative ways to help.
If last year’s lengthening shadow leaves you feeling more vulnerable than you expect, help is at hand. To join our ‘digital coffee mornings’ please get in touch and we’ll show you how. There’s nothing to lose.
Meanwhile, the Winter Solstice has passed and before too long, talk will return to the hope of Spring, green shoots and new beginnings for all of us.
The kitchen is an essential part of the charity’s work, and with Elaine’s skill and the team of talented volunteers that she has grown, we are ready to respond to wider needs and concerns, presenting in the locality.