Local Commissioned Partners - The Power in a Network
‘If we can get through COVID, we can get through anything’ – Sue, PAVO
Following on from celebrating the incredible local community leaders in our autumn Cook and Share, My Food Community focus, this month we wanted to put a much-deserved spotlight on our Local Commissioned Partners Network. Just before Christmas, we caught up with five of our Local Commissioned Partners discussing what they’ve been doing over the past few months, the challenges they face, the positives they feel and what can we do as a network to help each other continue to make a difference, such as sharing experience and best practice.
What is a Local Commissioned Partner?
Our Local Commissioned Partners are community-based organisations from across the four nations of the UK, who are as passionate about bringing communities together over food as we are. We have 12 partners we’ve been working alongside since September 2021. To catch up on some of the work we’ve done together you can see a few of the network events hosted here. And you can read about all 12 of our Local Partners here.
What do they do?
Our Local Commissioned Partners (LCPs) are doing a huge variety of different roles working on the front line to help people in their communities. They offer a vast range of support including food aid, food pantries, community growing spaces, community kitchens, cookery schools and culinary skills, to name just a few… as well as working tirelessly within their local area to try to implement and embed systemic change.
Vicky Hemming from The Active Wellbeing Society in Birmingham, an organisation that works with deprived people throughout the city, lists just a few of the ways they are reaching out to their communities this winter. These include an outreach food truck, community café, and various venues including a warm hub. They also worked to expand their offering over Christmas to provide nutritious Christmas dinners for children and families and have started running family cooking lessons, with some helpful insider tips from one of their fellow LCP’s the Edinburgh Food Social.
Edinburgh Food Social themselves are busier than ever, the organisation’s Chef, Tutor and Fundraiser, Kirsty, explains that on top of their regular distribution they worked with community centres and churches to make food parcels a little extra special over Christmas. They have also been running more cookery lessons, supporting young people to run their own cooking events, working out challenging delivery logistics to manage rising costs, as well as working out what to do with an unexpected bumper delivery of Ferrero Rocher (an experience also shared with the team from Hull food partnership) – they made a huge batch of brownies – recipe upon request!
Aside from dealing with far too many Ferrero Rocher donations, Hull Food Partnership’s team ran the Still Hungry for Change emergency food summit in the summer, where they brought together food aid providers from across Hull to have the ‘right conversations’ about how best to prepare for the winter months. They met with the Hull Food Inequality Alliance to discuss ways in which they can get fresh surplus food directly from local suppliers to community food aid providers, farm to fork. They have also submitted a bid for funding to develop a pilot platform for community food growers to plan ahead and sow crops that have the highest seasonal demand – more info here.
Two representatives from the Welsh local partners joined us, Rachel from Groundworks Wales, a community organisation with a strong sustainability focus and Sue from PAVO who work with growing organisation Cultivate. Rachel discussed how they have managed to treble their growing and the food they have will last until spring when the new crops will be ready. She also mentioned how they have got a lot more volunteers coming forward to help, which on one hand is wonderful, but on the other hand shows how much the need for access to fresh food is growing as she believes this is part of the motivation for it. PAVO have been running garden visits over the past few months and this has proved really welcome with people interested in a local network for food growing.
All of our Local Commissioned Partners’ representatives spoke of the many challenges they are facing right now, particularly from the cost of living and fuel prices and general expenditure rising at an astonishing rate. Kirsty from Edinburgh Food Social noted that ‘the increase in bike delivery service charge has gone up from £15 per delivery to £23. With the reduced amount of volunteers and the increase cost of fuel, the job at the front line of supporting those in food poverty is getting harder.’
Anna from Hull Food Partnership also spoke of the challenges with recruiting volunteers and that they have seen a significant drop off since many people have returned to work after the pandemic. She also mentioned that ‘it costs money to volunteer, and if you are on low wages, the cost of living will be having a big impact on those volunteers too’. Kirsty had also experienced a drop and felt that ‘the main reason is that a lot of people have got second jobs now and no longer time to volunteer’.
The quality of fresh food donations also came up in the discussion where many of our LCPs were finding that they were seeing an increase in rotten food donations. One of the key discussion points that came out of this issue was that shorter supply chains are needed and ensuring that local producers are part of the food partnership, and that farmers are more valued for the work they do. This is something that Hull Food Partnership is committed to, citing this recent article from Sustain.
To end on a positive note, all our Local Commissioned Partners representatives were asked:
What brings you hope for the coming months?
- Rachel from Groundworks Wales - continuing what they do and helping as many people as they can.
- Sue from Pavo stated that she gets hope from the fact that we got through COVID, so we can get through anything.
- Anna from Hull Food Partnership mentioned that the Hull Growers’ Network brings her hope and that they are looking forward to the Seed Swap in February as a positive community event for all.
- Hilary from Hull Food Partnership followed up that she gets her hope from engaging with other people who are all doing amazing things and are amazing people.
- Kirsty from Edinburgh Food Social – her hope comes from the young people who she is working with to help them with the Burns night food project event they are running in their local community centre. For Kirsty, the enthusiasm and empathy from the young people brings so much hope for the future.
We will be hearing more from our Local Commissioned Partners over the next few months as we head into our Spring regional events in February and March, future network sessions, and Plant and Share events.