It will soon be March wont it? A year.
Just a few short weeks until it’s a year ago this all started. The upheaval, the frustrations, and the public desperate need for some kind of normality to return. Its nearly a year and still we have no real end to this situation.
Its just about a year ago, when we closed our doors on our community shop with the dread of what lay ahead. We made the decision a week before the first national lockdown was enforced and after we spoke to our main funders, The National Lottery, to gain guidance and to be in a good position to adapt to community needs. Lottery main message to us was that they believed that we were best placed to support our community with their needs and we spent the first few weeks of the pandemic just listening to the community while adapting to the support they needed most.
As most who know us, know that the main route we took was food and through pestering and knocking on the right doors we managed to get some to open and get the support we needed here. Cornwall might be sold as an idyllic place to live, work and play but in reality, it's at the end of the earth, the final frontier and transport to get anything to Cornwall or moved around in Cornwall is a challenge and especially when you are skint as we were most of last year.
In April, through a friend i was lucky enough to buy a transit van for £750 quid of my own money as so I could bring food that had been donated to us in Bristol from FareShare South West, down to Cornwall as so we could fill the gap that was needed. Little did I know at that time it would become weekly, sometimes 2 or 3 times a week and that it would turn into us having our own hub in Cornwall receiving around 15 tons per week to share out amongst 20 + other community groups. Our fuel bill for the last year will reach almost 20k and the transit has long died but for us, we seem to go from strength to strength.
Pre Covid we were heavily involved in Textiles, in Circular Economy and creating opportunities from textiles that brought in some way more sustainable communities. We, with our team at the time, created jobs, events, youth training and experiences and I would like to think we were quite good at what we were doing. We were recognised for our work that could be seen in us winning awards, invites to share our knowledge with other top Uk orgs and we had just secured backing from Exeter and Falmouth University to collaborate on a film that would highlight the brilliance of Circular Economy in action in Cornwall. A film not about us but our idea was to showcase the fantastic businesses here in Cornwall leading the way with waste. We were doing ok, well not just ok, we were doing great!
And then Covid came and what a year it's been.
I can remember being so freaked out one night back then. Social Media videos showing people dropping down dead in the streets, Bodies in Italy being left on gurneys in the street ready for collection once the backlog had caught up, news of ice rinks being taken over for temporary morgues. It was hard not to be scared and it was hard not to just shut the doors from the world and what the unknown was to bring.
I have friends who I would class as very level headed who simply crumbled and I have friends who are normally shy and reserved who stepped forward and stole the show. I wobbled, I wanted to run away at times but as the messages started to come through to us, looking for support, for advice and for a whole host of things we knew we couldn’t. It's not in our nature and because we found that by being active it not only helped others, it's also meant we helped ourselves. The strength of our team that formed, many new to us but simply wouldn’t go away unless we let them help us, meant that we could and did move mountains. Without them and their support this would have never have been able to happen. Some are still with us; some have moved on and each one we hold with so much gratitude and high regard for the help they gave in the community hour of need. We would really like to thank them properly one day and I'm really unsure how that can be done but if ever we get chance, I'm sure we will.
So here we are, a year on. I'm not going to bore you with tonnage of food moved, the number of meals this could create. You have read the previous blogs and you know what we managed to do but what I am here to do is to not only look back but to look at what's happening next. We actually don’t know the full story but we feel that as we continue to support you, we need you to understand where we are now, where we want to be and what we are doing to get there. Some things are not in our control, in fact, most things are not in our control but we can adjust our sails to ride the storm with you.
In the next few months, late March, the winter food program finishes. Many of you may not know what this is but it is the food that has been provided by FareShare SW to us in Cornwall. This ends. This has been enabled by Defra / Government funding the producers to support charities during the pandemic. This was always planned to end and we have been working towards what's next. We know that the situation for many will not change and for many it may get harder. What we have been trying to put in place is securing long term support for Bodmin and the whole of Cornwall. We have secured a further 120 tons of food until March buts it's what happens next. If the Government doesn’t keep this up, if funding for these projects is no longer in place by DEFRA then things will change a lot. We will change a lot and service will no longer be as normal.
We are working towards the creation of a food hub in Bodmin to enable long term support right across Cornwall. We are actively engaging in partnerships and bringing in new members to act as food banks/ community cafes and a whole host of set ups that will continue to support the communities here. We think we are just weeks away from this becoming a reality and from that we should be able to create long term sustainable ways to help tackle food poverty in Cornwall. This will be in Partnership and working with organisations that will be involved with supply and support.
For Bodmin, this means that the food parcels that we have been sending out each week for free for anyone who is in need may change. We have never had the money to but this food and going from roughly a ton each week to a quarter of that, it will bring change. Is this a bad thing? Yes, maybe for some it is and we know its been a lifeline for many. Are we walking away? No. We have the ability to help and so we will as we always have during this pandemic.
What we are thinking is to set up a sort of `Meals on Wheels` service. People and families who need support can get access to meals that are precooked each week and adjusted to what is supplied to us seasonally. We can still get access to food but as its reduced amounts then it would go further. Where and when this will take place, we are unsure but it is along those lines we are thinking. As of yet we simply have no funding for this to happen. We have secured the food; we have people who can help but we are now in the process of trying to secure funding that will help us continue to support some 230 + people in Bodmin every week. We hope that by sometime in April this may be able to start. There will be a gap between the end of March and when this next phase of support starts. Once this starts, we see this as long term and for us that is what is needed at the moment. The uncertainty of the last year was the hardest part of what we faced and this will bring with it the ability to plan ahead, to serve you best and to help where help is most needed. Increase production during school holidays? No problem. Cater for those who may be shielding? Yep and we can deliver.
To be honest, this last year has been very testing. Im still angry at some but most of all we are tired. It’s a constant battle for us to try to make everything work. When we get complains, and we do, very few but the cut deep, we take it personally. People often forget that we are trying our best, we are human and we also have families that we have giving up our time with as so we can support them. We don’t get paid for this. We understand though. We know that many are just as frightened for the future as us.
Support for us has been very thin at times and often we have thought that’s it, we will have to close. For each one of these times there are others that simply shine and have really made a difference to Cornwall over this last year, like the day that Re:Act, a national org made up of ex-service people (some still serve) came forward to offer their help and who gladly give up their time each week to help us unload the lorry and make this hub a reality. Our volunteers are simply the best and as said before, without them this wouldn’t happen. Volunteers have offered their time weekly and sadly for most we have had to say no. Not because we don’t want you, We Do! But we simply can't. Covid has meant we have to put strict measures in place and we have created our own department bubbles. For us to have to stop due to Covid would disrupt the supply throughout Cornwall. The 6500 people who rely on this each week would not get the support they need and for that reason it's not quite the time to bring in new volunteers just yet. Next month maybe but not quite yet sorry.
We hope now you have a little better understanding of just where we are at, what we are now facing and what we are trying to do. If you message us and we don’t answer straight away, we are sorry. It's not easy but we will get there. This winter is tough on everyone and even more so our youth. We feel and we hope the bounce back from puts many of them in the front to get any help they need be it in education, training, work opportunities or just life experiences that we all took for granted when we were teens.
Almost all of our funding ends in March and when I mention there will be change, this is what I mean. It affects us all and this includes all our staff, our projects we have built over the years and the services we have been offering to the community. We are working on ways of continuation and we are desperately trying to make this happen as so we don’t disrupt what we are doing. Both Harry and I will be working when some things will have to close from April but much of this is voluntary.
Food is not our only project we have been running over the last year and we will continue to try to find ways so that those things may be able to keep going and maybe new projects to start up. Part of the problem has been that we have been so busy keeping the foodbanks going that we haven't had time to spent on funding and even when we did there wasn't the options open to us. We put others before us when we maybe should have done different even though we spent our Christmas break deep in funding applications. Anyhow, that is what is what, we can't change the past but we can help build better futures. We try, we learn and we keep going till we get there.
John and Harry – Cultivate Cornwall
100 tonnes of food was no mean feat, and while we feel proud of what we have achieved, it brings with it, mixed emotions, demand remains above supply, we cannot simply get enough food out for all the projects in need. While we are working to address this, it is a sobering thought as to just how normal food poverty has begun.
While we are new to distributing food at any real scale, it is only on the last few months that we have been able to put the capacity and supply in place to really start to address need. From a temporary food hub we are now distributing around 15 tonnes of ambient and fresh food each.
The food is shared out each week between roughly 20 community projects who give it to people in need in their communities. While we also deliver food parcels across Bodmin. In the recent both in Bodmin and at the community projects we support we have seen an increase in demand for the services we provide, between us each week we can food more than 1% of the Cornish population. In recent weeks more than 6,000 people are fed between us, while this has remained consistently above 5,500 since before Christmas.
We forecast this to continue increasing, this week alone we have seen a 30% increase in demand for food parcels in Bodmin. Our team at Cultivate Cornwall are working hard to ensure we have enough food to support those families most in need across Cornwall’s communities. This has become even more vital now we have entered the latest lockdown and start to feel the longer term impact of the pandemic.
Since March 2020 we have worked tirelessly to support Bodmin community members facing food poverty and have grown out of our small high street shop in market arcade on fore street, Bodmin. Although we still have the shop which is used to make up food parcels delivered 3 times per week, we also have a larger warehouse which is where our large deliveries are processed. With the larger capacity that we can operate at it brought opportunities to support more food banks and community support groups across Cornwall.
We have since partnered with FareShare South West and support at least 18 other community groups and food banks where we deliver directly to them bulk food from our unit every week, some do collect themselves, but most is delivered. This is a huge challenge each week to process this volume of food within a short turnaround, however we have a fantastic team of staff and volunteers that make it happen week after week, including over the Christmas and New Years holiday. We are grateful for the level of support from FareShare southwest, Penmellyn Vets for the use of one of their units and to all of the other organisations that work with us.
As 2021 begins, the news has been rather bleak, While there is hope, one of the less reported effects of COVID-19 is the additional thousands of families across the UK facing severe food poverty and relying on local food banks. Most of us have heard of Marcus Rashford, and you con not argue with the publicity he has brought to food poverty. While this does highlight the UK has a food poverty problem, it lacks perspective, and often we don’t realise just how much food poverty impacts your neighbours, friends, and colleagues, which remains a hidden struggle for many.
Our commitment to addressing food poverty in Cornwall is ever growing and reaches deep into many Cornish communities..
Each week we receive a lorry of mixed ambient and fresh goods that we distribute out across Cornwall. On top of the 200 people we support in Bodmin we also support 18 community groups around Cornwall and this is due to grow to 30+ in the new year and as demand grows. To give an idea ,on the 15th Dec 2020 we sent out 15 tons of food, while the following week it was 11 tons in 2 days. This will help around 5500 people in Cornwall or around 1% of the population here each week or 1 in every 100 persons living in Cornwall. This is every week and this is just us and what we are doing with our dedicated team and a set of fantastic volunteers. Food poverty is real here and don't think otherwise.
We can obviously only do this as we have been supported by FareShare SW who provide us with the food, advice and support and it would be impossible without the National Lottery Community Fund who enabled us to divert our funding from textiles to food support, the landlords of the premises that we have caused disruption over the year and the very kind donations we have received from companies and the public who have given to help continued support. ( to mention one - proper Cornish gave us 6000 pasties !! How bloody good is that !)
Again, to give scale, our fuel bill is going to be around 20,000 this year most of which was spent going to Bristol each week to collect the food that we send out to initially support 5 community areas in Cornwall until this changed in December when we managed to have deliveries in place.
Although a lot of the food is classed as surplus , the 96 tons in total we have moved have all gone, without question, to families in need of a little help with the majority being in-work, with children. These people are new to foodbanks and pre-covid had no need for them. Covid has changed so much.
Our longer term aim is to set up a hub in Bodmin that will continue this work across Cornwall of which, the first stages of that are in place. We have secured between 10 and 15 tons of food each week until the end of March. To buy this would cost around £35,000 each week. On top of this we have secured a unit to work out of and enable us to work out of for the next year.
What ever we think about food poverty we must remember that this pandemic has changed things. 27% of people are expected to lose their jobs in Cornwall due to Covid and its expected to take 5 years to get back to the same level pre Covid. This maybe you, it will be people on your street or children at your school who might need a little support. There is no shame in needing help so please don't let that stop you coming forward or reaching out. Be kind. Don't judge anyone who maybe getting help, you might not know the facts. Covid has made all our lives different and it looks like there is no quick fix to get out of this so while we are all going through the storm, look out for your neighbors, give a little extra love to those close to you and reach out so your not alone. But most of all, Be Kind.
We love the communities that make up Cornwall and that's what drives us to do this. We live here, we play here and we want to help create stronger communities. We don't always get it right but we do bloody try.
Sending love out to all from John, Harry and all the team that make up Cultivate Cornwall.
We were reminded last week that no matter how many times you check, re check and check again, things can still go with a wobble. It`s how you deal with those wobbles, how you react and how you recover that set you apart and I must say we came out stronger for it.
It started Monday, a quick trip to Bristol for a ton of carrots (literally a ton of carrots) that were offered by FareShare SW and that we could share amongst the community hubs that will be used as part of veg bags we were offering at the time aimed at healthy eating. It was also an extra to the lorry load of 18 pallets (14 tons) of food we were due later in the week, again, donated by FareShare SW and the hard work by Lucy and Shelley who have done nothing but support us during the Covid Pandemic.
It seemed that no soon had I got back to Bodmin and unloaded the carrots, kettle on and the phone rang... Sorry to say John but the forklift and driver can't help this week..... To be honest, it's not quite printable what my first reaction was as I knew we now faced a massive task. See, we had the forklift on offer for the last two weeks and it was a solid and sorted thing. Through no fault of the owner, it got called away for an emergency and wouldn’t be able to assist us in just a couple of days' time. This was our wobble and actually a huge problem. Business had closed for the day, its lockdown in a pandemic and it's not quite an off the shelf item to rent and especially as you need a driver to go with it.
Tuesday morning, I think we all had very little sleep as the reality crept in. £30,000 of food being loaded and soon to be on our doorstep, 14 tons of wonderful but no way of offloading and never achievable by hand. Bugger. We also had to sort this while still doing our normal daily community work, delivering food parcels in the community and delivering a ton of carrots out in bulk to the other hubs we support etc. This really left George and Kat, who had not been with us long but both knew us and the determination we have so we set them free on the task with strict instructions not to come out of the office until its sorted.
Just after 1 pm we had an offer, a driver, the TA and an army reserve came to our rescue and guaranteed us a driver, anytime and anywhere as once they found out what we are doing they simply couldn’t say no. Hats off to them as they really helped pull this off and have offered help again when and if we need it.
Just after 4pm a Forklift, ok it's in Birmingham but it can be with us in Bodmin for Thursday morning, do we want it? Do we what!! It was actually a national company we had approached and they really wanted to help and even though it was in the midlands they would bring it down as it would be used with Christmas lights in other areas over the next few weeks. Needless to say, we confirmed, paid and gave a huge sigh of relief.
Both sorted and before close of day, we could now let both George and Kat out of the office and back into the normal running and daily activities. A great intro to the company, a great bit of team effort and the both turned up the next day again so not put off at all by it I'm glad to say.
So that was the wobble followed by a great recovery but the recovery isn't the huge achievement.
The achievement was hitting 65 tons of surplus food delivered and distributed by us to the community groups we work with supporting Cornish communities facing food poverty. None of this could happen with the support we have been given by FareShare SW and especially Lucy and Shelley Wright who has moved mountains to help make this happen. I'm not quite sure how many meals that would make, I am sure Harry could work it out but I reckon around 180,000 meals and a few cups of tea. And tea is what I need after that week. A week full or real high, a little wobble and a great end result. The food is now here, being distributed and we are now working on the next one. We don’t normally work like this but it was brilliant to see what we could achieve in such a short time, not just with the forklift situation but when you think about it, 65 tons of food in 7 months is a huge amount of food. Pre Covid, this hub that we have created was just a conversation that we had had the previous year with FareShare and yes, in the pipeline but that wasn’t due to happen until next year, Covid changed that and 65 tons later, here we are now. A massive response in answer to community need and made a lot lot easier with the right support and the right team on your side.
March 12th 2020
This is the day for us that everything changed in our direction of travel and community support. It’s the day we closed our door, temporary, some 6 months ago.
We chose to close a week before the government announced the country lock down, at the time we didn’t know the plans of the government but we kind of knew it was going to happen.
We, like the whole country, and even the world was shocked at the situation, our situation and our decision to close a week before the country went into lock down gave us that time to think clearly, act on those thoughts and adjust our sails for what was to come. And boy did it come.
The first month or so was quite desperate for many we found, the areas we work in are quite deprived and with little extra spending available so when panic buying, stock piling and shortages started to happen, when those 2 for 1 offers dried up and the daily specials stopped people in our community felt it and especially with the children home from schools.
Although our decision to close our community shop was a hard thing to do, we know it was the right thing to do. This last 6 months has been a very quick learning curve for our community and us in the best ways we could support it. We were due to take on 7 new staff at the end of March on a new venture in our social enterprise endeavors and only able to send them home was a real low moment for us as we have worked and built this up over the last year or more. The news that our main funders, The National Lottery, would keep supporting us during this time was a life saver and in their words; `We are best placed to understand and deliver to our community needs` this alone was our saving grace, our reason to continue and to take the right actions after listening to our community needs.
Within weeks we had emptied our social enterprise shop where those people were due to start work and we transformed it over night to make space and provision for food that we had been lucky to have found through another fantastic national charity -`FareShare` and more direct `FareShare South West`. The team there knew us from previous visits and talks held the year before and when we reached out to them they could understand our community, our set up and our passion to make things work and with this information they set about supporting us from early April through FareShare Go and then onto larger amounts from May with the offer of collections from Bristol of whole pallets of dried ambient goods per week. As we grew so did the support, first one, then two, sometimes three and for a few weeks even 4 pallets of food came to us from Bristol or Exeter to our little shop in Bodmin to support the communities here. Over 30 tons of food came and went through or doors in the 4 months between May and the end of August. 30 tons. An enormous amount.
Through our main supporters we had managed to support and engage with our community as best we could. We took on, and have, a great team of new volunteers who are mainly young people that came calling in our hour of need. They have stuck by us in this time and we look at ways we can reward them, if ever possible, because we know that without their help then no 30 tons of food would have happened and that our community is in a better place for it.
Now we find ourselves 6 months in to something we still know very little about and have no end date on the situation. We find ourselves looking at the future, making educated predictions from the feedback gained from the community, community leaders, research and gut feeling (never ignore gut feeling). Although our findings point in many ways of continuation, they also point at the other things that are starting to surface and that things that we may be able to support our community with. Again, food is high on the list but so is youth support and is mental health issues, some of which we expected and have started to lay plans for the future with.
To tackle what we believe are concerns in our community we have set off in our way and have started to take action.
The end of September will see the start of a new project that will be run from out TeX shop in Bodmin. This is a music-based project called Poly Rhythm. Poly Rhythm is a youth led Musical Instrument Library where we will be able to loan out musical instruments from Bag Pipes to Bass Guitars. A free service that will serve our community for months to come.
We will look at finally opening up TeX shop in some description. We have started slowly doing so recently where we have been able to give out free school uniforms and children`s clothing that has been left over from donations and from our Swishes that we may not be able to return to anytime soon. We think TeX will open during October, depending on restrictions and staffing, and will offer reduced workshops but also a space for community ideas that we will try and test out over the next 6 months.
As stated, our Swishes are on hold for now. We know these were very popular but we also know that they are very hard to manage with the Covid Restrictions everyone is now faced with. We hope that someday we can return to them in some form and until then we will be able to offer a space for donated clothing and a space as so we can give these out in a controlled safe way. If you have clothing to donate then please contact us and we can make arrangements and the same goes if you may need any clothing, let us know if we can help.
Supporting Young People in our Community. This is a big reason why we started Cultivate Cornwall some 5+ years ago and its as high on the list today as it was back then. Predictions are not looking good for youth in the near future and although Poly Rhythm will help some but we think we can do more and this will be a main focus and aim. We want to find ways to create opportunities from our shops and projects that will support more needs of our youth, be it employment opportunities, training and life experiences. Many will no longer face the chances that were traditionally there and will see increased competition when it comes to employment so we are seeking ways where we can help with this. It’s a small way we can support our young people but we hope for some it will be just what they need, when they need most.
Mental Health and especially men`s mental health. We know this is important, we have lived it, we have seen it rise over the years and we have seen it peak during Covid 19. We don’t have all the answers but we can do things that we believe will help so we are going to look at setting up a social enterprise whose main aim is to bring men together where they can feel less isolated, share experiences and just maybe find the help that is missing at times. Seed funding will be sought as so we can start it going and get it sustainable and we will look at collaboration with other agencies who have some great ways to help people overcome mental health issues. We are really keen to start this going and at present it is just seed funding holding us back.
Not many will know about our COGS project where we are found supporting other community groups, (community organisation and group support) but we have run this for 3 + years now and we will continue but slightly reduced in deliver. We have never really had funding ourselves with COGS but have managed to help support a lot of community groups in setting up, governance and to find funding with funding being the most beneficial to them. With our energy being directed at the current situation it means with our limited time we can only do so much and yes; we can still help but sadly maybe not so many at the moment.
Bugler Library of Things has been a fantastic project to be involved with and long may it continue. We helped set this up in January of 2020 only to be faced with a pandemic 2 months later. What came of that was simply amazing with the efforts Jo and Rob (+ other volunteers) jumping in to support the community. The food we have been able to distribute there to Jo really has helped and we have seen first-hand how the community has reacted to Jo + Rob and The Library of Things. We are going to do everything to make this a long-term project as it is simply so beneficial to everyone there. It has actually inspired us to look at more of them and in more places like Bodmin and could possibly happen over the next few months. Let us know if you like this and would use it.
The Fare Exchange Bodmin was set up in answer to community needs and the Covid Pandemic. This we will be continuing with and we hope to be able to set up in Partnership with FareShare to open a Hub that will serve more communities in Cornwall. At present we support 5 communities with essential food items and we hope to be able double that at least to 10 communities by the end of the year. We know there is a need for this service and we know the benefits to the community, we just need to find space for this to happen as the shop on the high street is just a little too small for this. The hunt is on so if you know somewhere it might be well placed can you contact us please. The project will be aiming to bring of more youth as a place to gain work experience, further training and will create opportunities in employment.
And there are other things we are working on but yet to announce.
For now, we think we have our work cut out though and are looking for help within each project, we need funders to keep believing in our work and we need new funding bodies to fill the gaps that are missing. We owe it to our Youth, our Community and to ourselves to create the future and a place we love to live in. You can be involved with us, or others and make the change you want to see.
Before I sign off and get back to the projects, I would like to say a massive thank you to the community here. This last 6 months have been very difficult for many of us and of all ages. You have kept us going and supported us right the way through this pandemic and without you I think we would have been in a very dark place. I know why I live in Bodmin as you have so much to give and for this, I thank you, we thank you and we can now carry hope into the future.
YeS Bodmin !
August has brough some brilliant news from the National Lottery Community Fund when they said YeS to Bodmin.
Youth Essential Support funding will enable us at Cultivate Cornwall to continue to support youth services in Bodmin over the next 6 months.
During the pandemic we took time to speak with some of the young people in Bodmin to find ways that would benefit them, their mental wellbeing and help them through this hard time for all.
They can up with ideas that we managed to put into collect, help shape and now with the Community Fund support, we can turn into reality.
The 3 part delivery will be first aimed at dignity and creativity and the fund will enable us to deliver, alongside our food supplies, dignity bags filled with essential items and that feel good support that is often missing and alongside this we will be able to offer creativity and craft bags to brighten those dull days, we hope to be able to deliver 80 of these per month over the next 6 months.
The main part of the support from the Lottery Community Fund will enable us to set up a Musical Instrument Library where we will be able to loan out various musical instruments for free and to al lages. This project is run by the youth and aimed mainly at the youth in the community.
We currently have a call out for donations for all types of instruments as to build up the library inventory and we should be able to start this from early September. Poly Rhythm – the name chosen by the people behind the project – are really excited to get going and to highlight the benefits that music can bring during times of hardship and during this pandemic. Poly Rhythm also is looking for ways to support others during the next 6 months by arranging Jam sessions and hopefully lessons, in socially distanced way or even online, who knows, watch this space.
What we do know is that this is a great opportunity for Bodmin to get involved with and to support the youth in this community. We plan on lots of updates of the progress and we should share more in the next few weeks on the music library, how to get involved, how and what you can loan out and the jam sessions.
This week and 4 months in to the Pandemic we hit a mile stone.
It really has not been easy over this time and we have faced massive hurdles during this time that have included no local funding, vehicle breakdowns, staff and volunteer shortages, and enough supply to keep up with demand.
The upside of all that very hard work can be seen here and there is so many more we could mention like Re-act, the volunteer ex vets from Red Cross in Exeter who actually built a distribution center overnight to make it easier for the community hubs in Devon and Cornwall get the essential supplies to where they are needed. Without people like these, without the Community Groups in Cornwall who we work with and without the youth of Bodmin who have given the most in a real time of need, then very little would have happened and for this, we thank every last one of you.
We have repurposed one of our shops on the Bodmin Highstreet to help feed our Cornish communities through the pandemic. It came after being forced to shut our shop during lockdown and wanting to find a way the space could continue to support those most in need.
Each week over two tonnes of food is being sorted into food parcels and then distributed across Bodmin and the surrounding areas. We have also been lucky enough to be able to support other groups with this new project 'The Fare Exchange', giving access to the food, for free, to other community groups feeding their communities during the Pandemic.
Coronavirus has brought new challenges for us all, we are just trying to make life just a little easier for the community during this challenging time. As a small team we wouldn’t have been able to get to this point without the huge amount of support we have received and all the new volunteers that have joined us to make it happen.
It has been refreshing seeing so many young people come forward wanting to help the more vulnerable in our community, the energy and passion they have brought has made it more than just a lifeline for those that receive the food, but also as a team we have been able to support each other, it has been a challenging time for everyone.
This is a fantastic opportunity for our community but it has also helped our volunteers, In lockdown many have needed to find a way to keep themselves occupied, through being involved as part of this team they have been able to overcome some of the personal challenges they have also been facing. We have all loved helping people in this challenging time and for many their involvement has helped them consider how into the future they can become more involved in the community.
The Fare Exchange, in the last month alone has distributed food for almost 2,500 food parcels, each week there is more demand and more people being fed, it seems that this is far from over yet. As well as supporting their our local community in and around Bodmin and Camelford, Cultivate Cornwall have also been able to support other food projects across the county to help them access food to distribute to people who need it in their communities. Each week as much as one tonne of food is being donated to Bugle Library of Things, Lighthouse Community Centre in Liskeard and St Erme.
We spoke to Jo who is managing the distribution of food in Bugle and this is what she had to say; "This has been a lifeline for so many, just in our small village we are now feeding 150 people each week, without the Fare Exchange we would be forced to make choices between who can eat and who goes hungry, The fare Exchange has allowed us to ensure everyone in need is able to get access to food.”
This has only become possible by working with all these amazing different groups and we are delighted we have been able to help them in some way. But this has been more than just a group effort from a few, this would not have happened without the continued support of FareShare Southwest, alongside Tesco, Asda, The Hive, WRAP, DEFRA, The National Lottery Community Fund, Western Power, Groundwork and the Red Cross. Not to mention all the people from across the community who have made donations and given up their time.
Fairshare Southwest have been key to our ability to expand to the thousands of meals each month that we are able to give away, in the last month we have often been donated as much as 5 pallets of food from them. We have been talking to FareShare Southwest for over a year now so we are delighted to now be able to work with them on such a large scale.
The last few weeks have been epic and so much work has been carried out.
This week we have had 2 more volunteers come to lend a hand with packing and delivery of the support we give in the community and again, it's the youth that have really made a massive effort in this situation. 6 people are now sorting everything and all are under 27! ( I don't count myself because they took control and took over the running and I just get to do the running as required)
Last week we supported 168 just around the Bodmin area and already those figures have increased and with the support of FareShare South West we will be able to continue at least until the end of July when we assess the situation and find a way to continue.
We also welcomed The Hive Cornwall this week with their support. The Hive has taken over the production unit at Rick Stiens and produce ready meals that help fight food poverty. We took 550 meals of them this week and that has been sent out to the community with a warm welcome. We are busy making plans to ensure this continues long into the future.
We also collected from FareShare SW -Bristol twice this week to ensure the support is ongoing. That is just over 5 pallets of food and of essential items given by FareShare to the community here. Simply amazing and hard to think that we go through this each week as Saturday our shelves were empty just about.
The support we give is not limited to Bodmin but we are acting as a hub for distribution to St Erme, Liskeard, Bugle and Camelford and support community groups who again help to give the right help to the right people. In total we reach around 600 people a week through this quickly expanding network we have built.
We can't thank our youth volunteers enough for the help they give. Battling through their own problems and giving their own time to help others. The young people involved really are an inspiration. Without them we would find it very hard to do what we do. We also thank those that support us through food donations and the Lottery Community Fund who have supported us through funding that helps cover core costs and enables us to deliver the much needed support.
We have always tried to champion now ideas and community projects and through the pandemic there has been no exception as we move to new ways of working, today is a good day to look back and reflect on how COGS has evolved over recent weeks and to celebrate the first big successes since lockdown. Despite restrictions we have still been able to find ways to support new community projects in starting up. There has been a lot of demand as community projects are facing new challenges, new community needs emerge and ore people are inspired to lead change in their community.
Today we helped launch a community helpline for the Bodmin Community with Earth23 CIC, as part of our work with the COGS project. We are delighted to have been able to see this to fruition and to have been able to support a part of that process. The number is free to call, manned by local volunteers who know your community and is open from 8 am until 9 pm, 7 days a week.
Our blog is designed to keep you up to date on Cultivate Cornwall news and all the different projects we are working on.