Barnet’s open green spaces, allotments and gardens can generate an impressive harvest. With food poverty increasing due to COVID, community gardeners Incredible Edible Barnet are working closely with foodbanks and other local organisations to help boost stocks of nutritious fresh produce.
Incredible Edible Barnet is part of Sustain (the alliance for better food and farming) and their London network of gardens, Capital Growth. Sustain’s 50 community gardens across London, Manchester and Reading have supplied four tonnes of food to families since July. Early on during the pandemic around half of people who used food banks had never needed to before and many of the providers of food parcels have struggled to provide fresh produce to their users.
In response to the impact the pandemic was having on the availability of fresh, healthy and affordable food Community Harvest initiative was launched. This has given community gardens the soil, plants, seeds and advice they needed to grow and donate produce to their local communities. Community gardens, as well as home growers and allotment holders across the capital have become involved and have linked up with other groups such as foodbanks and lunch clubs, along with local families. This way often reaching the most vulnerable people in the community including elderly and disabled people and people on low incomes. Barnet Community Harvesters who we covered in September is a similar initiative but dealing with apples and other locally grown fruit and donating to local foodbanks.
Wendy Alcock, Co-ordinator of Incredible Edible Barnet, who have donated over 900kg of fresh produce explains: “Volunteers from my community garden [have] grown fresh food on a temporary allotment plot. We’ve donated our harvests to the Chipping Barnet Food Bank, Homeless Action Barnet and the Rainbow Centre. The recipient organisations have been collectively feeding around 400 to 500 people per week and our fresh food has provided a higher nutritional content to the standard dried and tinned goods for their emergency food parcels supporting their clients.”
Steve Verrall, manager of Rainbow Community Centre in Dollis Valley who have received produce from Incredible Edible Barnet, commented: “The food has been well received by all our clients, many of whom would not be able to feed themselves and their families without assistance from organisations like ourselves. We often struggle to get fresh veg to distribute in our food bags. The veg is high quality and plentiful, providing excellent nutrition. Without the donation our clients would have mostly dry and canned goods which do not provide enough variety or nourishment, this is a great initiative which has helped many individuals and families.”
While the Community Harvest was not set up to solve bigger issues of food poverty, it has highlighted how urban gardens can strengthen community resilience and provide healthy food for cities. It also gives people more opportunity to visit their local community gardens, giving them access to nature, fresh air and potentially overcoming isolation.
Incredible Edible Barnet have grown over 300kg of food and donated an extra 600kg from other growers in the area to Chipping Barnet Foodbank, the Rainbow Community Centre, Homeless Action Barnet, St Barnabas Foodbank in Finchley and social enterprise Bread n Butter.
As well as Incredible Edible Barnet Community Harvest Allotment/St John’s Church Plot, the scheme involves other gardens in our area such as Colindale Foodbank Community Garden, Myddelton House Gardens and NW7hub.
For more information check the Incredible Edible Barnet Facebook page.
Image courtesy of Incredible Edible Barnet.