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
Get in touch now to shape future cookery workshops
Since refurbishing the former Park Street Infants School kitchen in 2016 the Community Centre team has been learning about the need for affordable and healthy meals in the community, and getting to know other local organisations working on the ground.
During the pandemic lockdown last year, an opportunity arose for the Abergavenny Community Trust to apply to the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government for funds to strengthen local partnerships and widen access to nutritious food and cooking skills at a neighbourhood level. The application was successful, and on top of the activities already underway, we are organising a series of ‘hands-on’ cooking sessions, starting this month with a festive theme for Families. [See above]
The focus of workshops next year is to grow confidence in using cookery skills/methods/techniques common to a lot of different meals – helping to improve nutrition, avoid waste and helping budgets stretch. These free workshops will be aimed widely across the population and will touch on bespoke nutritional needs over a lifetime.
Please contact us if you’d like more information, and to book your places.
Note: Numbers are strictly limited due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ways to CONTACT us:
Community Kitchen on 07564016574 or 07751666481, 07821627038, or, leave a short, clear message on the kitchen landline where your call will be returned – (01873) 856 925 Thanks!
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com, or private message us https://www.facebook.com/aberfoodnet
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.