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#CommunityFoodNearMe: reflections on community food work in my area

#CommunityFoodNearMe is our social media campaign to recognise local community food activity, which we launched in September 2020.

It came from a conversation with colleague, Jacqui. We were having a phone walking meeting, discussing our social media presence. We started to chat about the importance of community support around food during lockdown, and as I stopped at a bench in my local park, about how significant the places we can walk or cycle to had become to us. From there came the idea to combine the two, and seek out and celebrate local community food activity, and share on social media.

Other colleagues in Edinburgh have also participated, but this is my personal reflection on the experience of #CommunityFoodNearMe.

I live in Tollcross (and have done for 18 years now) in the east end of Glasgow, bordered by Parkhead to the west and Shettleston to the north. It’s well known for its park, with its award-winning roses, and which is fringed by blonde and red tenements. It is also home to Tollcross International Swimming Centre, which hosted the Commonwealth Games events in 2014. It has a wee ‘high street’ with all the usual amenities (beauty salons are particularly abundant), and a Coop and a Lidl.

I was familiar with some community food activity already. Tollcross Park Allotment Association was set up a few years ago and the allotments are well-established. When looking for their social media details, I discovered that my downstairs neighbour has an allotment there, and during the Commonwealth Games was offering a surplus of courgettes.

Also well-known to me was Shettleston Community Growing Project (two minutes away), which was set by local people in 2009. I even considered volunteering there at one time, but I’m not really green fingered. It was open for business at that time, using social distancing guidelines, but I didn’t manage to pass it at the right time.

Fuse youth cafe in Shettleston (20 minutes’ walk) has provided a range of services to young people, including the café area, for a number of years, and has been on our newsletter mailing list since 2011.

I did a little bit of research for other projects within walking distance and came across Greenheart Growers in Parkhead, a social enterprise supplying fruit and veg to, and working with, the local community. I went to visit (15 minutes’ walk) on a beautiful sunny day in September. We had a wee chat while Max and Grant were packing their vegetable delivery boxes. Max knew CFHS, as he had applied for funding from us in a previous job. He said we were ‘nice funders – not too onerous’.

Research also showed that Parkhead Community Pantry was about to open. As reported in a recent e-bulletin, there was a flurry of community pantry launches once we started coming out of lockdown, and within a couple of weeks Shettleston and Tollcross pantries had also opened. The pantries offer recipe packs and there are lots of recipes on their joint facebook page.

I took a walk (just along the road) to take a picture of Tollcross pantry, and passed a mosque, (previously a church) that I didn’t know was there. But I only found out during lockdown that 10 minutes walking in that direction takes you to the River Clyde and the walkway. Only taken 18 years.

And finally, to a church that used to be a bar. The Charter, on the edge of Tollcross/Parkhead (5 minutes’ walk) is a community church that has a pay-as-you-feel café. I used to pass this every day on the bus to and from work and had no idea what the space was now being used for.

If I had a bike, I would have gone to Reidvale Community Café and allotments in Dennistoun. Established in 2009, we have worked with Reidvale for a few years, and were delighted when they won community café of the year in the Scottish Café awards in 2018. I also would have visited Alexandra Park Food Forest, a fruit and nut orchard, created by the community in 2016, and recommended by a friend.

So, that was the community food activity to be found near me and my connections to it. Other colleagues in other parts of the city/country will continue posting from time to time over the winter and into spring, weather permitting. We hope that twitter followers and facebook friends will also take the opportunity to share and celebrate community food activity near them.

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