As we at Food in Community looks forward to the New Year ahead, we’re also celebrating our sixth year as a community project. Back in December 2012 Laurel Ellis and I found ourselves in a cold store with a large pallet load of surplus produce. All but a few staff at Riverford had gone home for the holidays, and the donated vegetables were left for us to sort and make Christmas boxes for our first recipients. Thus, the project started by supplying fresh organic produce to the Totnes Drop In Centre, who were providing hot Christmas dinners for homeless people.

Fast forwarding to 2018, our volunteers still collect, sort and deliver a variety of fresh produce from a range of producers every week to the Totnes Drop in Centre and Food Bank, now known collectively as the Totnes Connection Hub, as well as to a number of local charities, community groups and projects where food is used to enhance the lives of people of all ages, from infants to the elderly. Austerity remains a reality for some, where the produce meets a need for healthy sustenance, whereas for others food is the tool building vital community links and tackling loneliness.

Some of our surplus vegetables and fruit are harvested directly from local fields and orchards by our volunteers (gleaning). This family-inclusive activity is practical and fun and is also an eye-opening experience into the reasons why crops sometimes lie unharvested. We have some fantastic local farmers, growers and producers on board for the project.

Our café now pops up monthly serving fresh, seasonal food with a side of live acoustic music, and is a well-established feature in the Totnes calendar, with people from all walks of life coming to eat and volunteer with us. The project started with just a few occasional volunteers, we now have over 50, who brilliantly support what we do in so many ways, providing an enviable solidity and resilience to what we do.

Our workshops and courses help to boost confidence and knowledge around sourcing, preparing, cooking and preserving food, and at the same time helping to reduce food waste. Particular course highlights this year have been Cooking for men, run in partnership with Totnes Caring, and weekly childrens’ summer holiday cooking lessons plus lunch for the Hello Summer children’s activity scheme.

We have exciting plans for 2019, to build further on the work that at the end of 2017 culminated in Food in Community being awarded Transformative Community Business of the year. Please watch this space, and our increasingly lively social media accounts for details… The year ahead is looking good!