Credit: Groundwork Luton & Bedfordshire
The three community food hubs were set up to provide a space for local residents to come together for regular community sessions where they get involved in growing food, cooking and eating. 324 new participants took part in gardening sessions since the start of the Veg Cities Luton campaign, many with no other access to a food growing space or the opportunity to grow fresh food.
Summer gardening sessions
Throughout Summer 2019 two Children’s Centres have been involved in the Veg Cities campaign. Flying Start South have incorporated a trip to the community garden into their Play and Learn sessions where families got involved in sowing seeds (salads, carrots and spinach), using the senses to explore smell in the garden (smelling fruits, herbs, leaves) and harvesting. Children got hands on harvesting potatoes, onions, chard, peas and garlic. Families participating in Flying Start Central sessions got involved in sowing salad trays, making vegetable hanging baskets and exploring and identifying vegetables. Children then chose to incorporate fresh salad into their morning snack.
Other gardening sessions involving young people and women included:
- ACE pupils (pupils outside mainstream school) – three sessions to gain new skills and support their local community growing space. They planted fruit trees, a raised bed with tomato plants, created a large tyre planter and planted a potato patch.
- Young Adults With Needs group – 10 sessions to help plant brassicas, squash, pumpkin, beans and other crops while gaining new skills including team work, problem solving, communication, literacy and numeracy. Tasks involved setting up a water butt, netting crops, plant care, understanding plant spacing and how to weigh a harvest.
- Wardown 9th Scout Group - helped to fill and plant up 15 tyre planters. They learned how to use gardening equipment safely, how to manage shovels and a wheelbarrow and how to plant up and water in a selection of plants for pollinators.
- NOVA training centre - practical session learning the basics of horticulture included tools. They harvested beetroot and onion.
- Luton All Womens’ Centre group - two sessions to support mental and physical well-being. They helped to plant a herb bed,
The hubs are part of the Big Dig network and are tracking their harvest with the help of the Harvest-ometer. They have so far recorded close to 400kg of vegetables, equivalent to about 5,000 meals or £2,000. Produce from the gardens is supplied to volunteers, the local residents who overlook the Strathmore community garden, to families who attend the local children’s centre, to the British Red Cross drop-in centre and to the local homeless shelter.
Plans for the future
Groundwork Luton & Bedfordshire secured funding for the next three years from the National Lottery Community Fund to continue to engage the residents of Luton in the community gardens and will continue to provide courses, activities and training within these spaces.
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 Cities and is run in partnership with Peas Please.