Plants rescued from Council nurseries. Credit: Green Squirrel
Food Cardiff runs a successful local Veg Cities campaign with dozens of pledges from organisations serving and growing more vegetables across the city. Soon into the coronavirus outbreak, Food Cardiff realised that inequalities in terms of access to healthy food were being exacerbated by the crisis and formed a Covid-19 Food Response Task Group with Cardiff Council, Cardiff & Vale University Health Board Dietetics, Cardiff Foodbank, Fareshare Cymru and Cardiff Third Sector Council. They are also in the process of setting up Network of Food Response Partners. Working in collaboration with these food emergency response networks, Food Cardiff and other partners across the city are encouraging growers and residents to grow more vegetables.
A key partner in all this work is Edible Cardiff, the local network connecting small scale farmers, allotments and community gardens. Their aims are increasing the amount of food grown in the city and getting more people involved in growing their own food. Recently, the group started being led by the Welsh team at Social Farms and Gardens and is gaining more traction. Some of Edible Cardiff members were quick to respond to the crisis. For example, Grow Cardiff sent hundreds of seedlings out to families and Green Squirrel rescued hundreds of plants from the council plants nurseries. Despite the lockdown, Edible Cardiff members got together virtually to discuss how to scale up these earlier initiatives into something bigger with the help of the structures set up to respond to the food emergency. Some initiatives got funding from Food for Life Get Togethers who repurposed their funding to initiatives that could be carried out in lockdown and include:
- Social Farms and Gardens Cymru – Their #GrowingHope Cardiff project is distributing 1,000 growing kits with everything people need to grow salad and herbs in window sills. The majority are going out in local authority food parcels with some being distributed in food bank parcels, through Mutual Aid groups. Funders are Food for Life Get Togethers, the Community Foundation Wales and the Vegware Community Fund.
- Grow Cardiff – Sow Some Sunshine project is working with schools that are still open and supporting vulnerable children and children of key workers to grow their own vegetables and sunflowers.
- Global Gardens – a community garden based in an allotment site had to restrict the number of people allowed into the site but started to feature one crop and one herb every fortnight and invite people to share recipes online. The best contributors will receive packs including a portion of the crop, recipes and seeds. This enables the site to continue to link to the community in lockdown.
- Green Squirrel – working with Bute Plant plant nursery to grow veg and herb seedlings to distribute for free to local residents and groups, supported by digital resources and online grow-alongs.
- Cardiff Salad Garden – growing seedlings for volunteers unable to get to the garden and to include in parcels from the local pantry going out to 50 families, supported by Zoom growing lessons.
By using existing capacity and network and pooling resources, Food Cardiff ensured that a grow your own element was included in the emergency response, avoided duplication of efforts and was part of the bigger movement. The food partnership is now considering what should be taken forward in the long term to ensure the interest in growing your own food is sustained.
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.