Food4Families set up the Veg4Reading project in June 2020 with the aim to expand fruit and vegetable production in their community gardens to donate to organisations and charities providing food parcels and cooked meals to people in need.
Five of the Food4Families gardens in Reading; Whitley GrowAllot, Southcote GrowAllot, Lavender Place Community Gardens, Katesgrove Community Allotment and Food4Families training base, as well as local allotment growers, joined forces over the summer 2020 to grow more food to donate to those in need across Reading.
They were joined by 50 gardens across London, Manchester and Reading who participated in Sustain's Community Harvest, Grow to Donate, project.
The project was a great success and nearly £3,000 worth of produce was grown and donated in Reading. Below, Food4Families reflect on the year.
From June, right through to October, over 60 volunteers supported the effort to help grow and distribute the produce. Some have now returned to work, or found new employment, but many have continued to support and volunteer for Food4Families through the winter.
To support volunteers across the year who were not able to gather in the usual pre-covid sized groups, Food4Families held fortnightly Zoom get-togethers for volunteers and garden tutors to put names to faces and add the social aspect to volunteering. During the summer, they also organised garden visits for volunteers to visit other gardens and projects.
To ensure there was enough space to grow surplus across the summer, volunteers were tasked with clearing unused spaces and building new beds. Recipients of the food were invited to volunteer in the gardens and Food4Families also organised regular sessions for a group of asylum seekers keen to get involved.
Lavender Place in May
Lavender Place in August
By the end of September, the five gardens had recorded 598kg in total with an estimated value of £2,718. This included 101kg of apples, 23kg of plums & damsons, 13kg rhubarb, 50kg of beans (runner, French and broad), 51kg of courgettes, 35kg of cucumbers, 57kg of marrows, 63kg of squash & pumpkins, 33kg of onions, 16kg of beetroot and 33kg of tomatoes.
Veg4Reading were originally working through Whitley Community Development Association, New Beginnings, Sadaka, Red Kitchen and the Weller Centre to distribute the produce. As the amount of produce increased, they started to supply CIRDIC as well. They also made jam with some of the fruit, which was sold for donations to the project.
A bit about the recipient organisations:
Red Kitchen meals
Food4Families intends to continue the project next year and are already preparing new beds for planting next spring.