Dumfries and Galloway Community Food Network was one of three pilot areas we invested in during Spring 2023 to support local work to build a stronger community food sector, tackle health inequalities and poverty.
Propagate co-ordinates the Dumfries and Galloway Community Food Network (DGCFN) which is part of the Dumfries and Galloway Sustainable Food Partnership (SFP). DGCFN supports grassroots community organisations by offering networking and skills sharing opportunities and represents these grassroot organisations on the SFP.
How it works
The DGCFN was set up in 2021, a year after the SFP was formed. The SFP’s current Action Plan (2023 to 2025) shows how DGCFN contributes to actions within the Plan.
As well as regular events for its members, the Network shares practice through publishing Good Food Stories on its website. Its Facebook page lets people know about events and opportunities. A Community Food Map shows what’s available in the area.
The DGCFN used the funding we awarded to increase the numbers of community food groups within the network; it made new links with community groups across the region and strengthened its links with public sector organisations such as the NHS. For example, the NHS Public Health Team attended Networking events to share and learn about local projects and events.
Supporting ‘cash first’ approaches to food insecurity and access to, and take up of good, nutritious, and sustainable food
The DGCFN used its events to raise awareness of and distributed the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN)’s ‘Worrying about Money?’ leaflets. These leaflets provide a signpost to services in the local area, such as money advice and other services that tackle poverty, the cost of living or other issues. Some community food initiatives within the Network, such as community cafes, were already supporting cash first approaches as they already host money advice services.
The DGCFN aimed to link its many community food growing project members with food banks, community cafes, food hubs or people in the local community to supply them with locally grown food. Most of the food growing projects already had some methods of sharing surplus produce with communities or community organisations, but this has expanded during the last year.
The DGCFN continued to share skills with members and the wider community though food growing skills and cooking skills courses and mentoring.
As well as the small amount of funding from ourselves, the DGCFN has received funding from the Dumfries and Galloway NHS Endowment Fund, and Groundwork which has helped to pay for organising events, good food stories and connecting with communities and individuals. DGCFN have also worked with Grow Green Scotland to investigate and support community growing projects.
Dumfries and Galloway is a big region – from West to East its 111 miles and takes three hours to drive (when the traffic is good) from one end to the other, so it can be hard to know what is happening in different parts of the region. Reaching some rural communities can be challenging. Propagate had recently recruited a second part-time co-ordinator who lives and works in a different part of the region to the first coordinator. This has helped to expand the network as she was able to use different contacts to connect with different communities and discovered new community gardens and food growing projects.
The size of the region meant that it was very useful to have funding from Public Health Scotland’s community food programme to support community food groups to attend events in different parts of the region to learn and share with that community.
Getting local fresh fruit and vegetables is a challenge for everyone. Therefore, supplying consistent and adequate amounts of donated or costed locally grown food to community food groups, such as food banks and community meals is extra challenging. However, the Network hopes to continue to support new and existing community gardens in the area to supply local communities.
Propagate is also developing a scheme called ‘share an acre’ in which a farmer is happy to share an acre of land for someone else to grow fruit and vegetables to support people to grow more vegetables locally. Vegetable production can be more labour intensive and less cost effective than other types of farming, the share an acre scheme aims to make this more viable. Propagate have been working with policy makers to try to influence policy around supporting more vegetable production.
The Dumfries and Galloway Community Food Network is established and employs two part-time co-coordinators. They will continue to expand and support the Network, particularly on its role to link community food growers with other community food initiatives, subject to further funding.