Tower Hamlets Food Partnership is one of 13 organisations that got a Sustainable Food Places grant to run a Veg Cities campaign in 2020. Initial plans included supporting more local vegetable production in community growing spaces and urban farms and create an identity for Tower Hamlets produce. Just as work was starting, the Covid-lockdown forced the food partnership to adapt their plans. In April and May, some of the funding available for the campaign was used to research and collate a weekly local food update, including info on food aid, delivery and takeaway offers of local retailers and shops, and info on free school meals and healthy start vouchers.
Since June, Veg Cities work resumed and adapted to the new circumstances. The result is the Keep Growing initiative to support people to grow their own food, share produce if appropriate and celebrate local growing and local resilience. Keep Growing is a collaboration between Tower Hamlets Food Growers (Wen’s network of community gardens and growers) and the Tower Hamlets Food Partnership. The initiative is exploring whether larger community gardens and individuals with more space can donate excess produce to community food projects that have sprung up in response to Covid. Although it is unlikely there will be a huge amount of produce, even a small amount of fresh and nutritious vegetables where they are most needed will make a difference and encourages local collaborations between charitable and voluntary organisations. Within the Tower Hamlets Food Partnership, which includes London Food Alliance organisations FareShare, Felix Project and City Harvest, the initiative triggered discussions about diversifying sources of food for food aid to include more locally grown or sourced food. It is also championing the inclusion of locally grown food in a forthcoming community pantry.
To support growing spaces and individuals growing their own food, Wen is running a series of Growers’ Question Time sessions on zoom, covering everything from how to sow your seeds, to spacing plants, natural pest control, fertilisers and more. They have created introductory video and blog resources to help people grow veg successfully at home. These are available on the resource page and have been shared with partners as well as participants in the project.
Wen is the local lead in the new Capital Growth’s Community Harvest project, which is encouraging community gardens to grow extra for donation. They are also about to start a photo project which will capture some of the growing that has taken place during lockdown, from balconies to community gardens, as well as interviewing growers to capture some of the difficulties they have faced during this time.
Sustain are encouraging more areas to launch Veg Cities campaigns and get local businesses and organisations making veg pledges. Veg Cities is a feature campaign of Sustainable Food Places and is run in partnership with Peas Please.