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